Today is a day for travelling without a big agenda. Still, our short stop-over in Banjul allows us to experience daily life in a busy African city. The market close to the ferry terminal draws many customers, the small Arabic and African restaurants are always busy – merchants selling souvenirs approach the guests, donkey carts pass through, loaded to the brim with fresh vegetables. When the car and passenger ferry arrives, there is a big crowd but everything is orderly. We need a bit of patience for our turn – but then we are on our back to Senegal.
Today’s agenda includes Tanji with its village museum and the “fishermen beach” and a visit to “Mama Africa“. Our guide informs us: „Along the coast in and around Tanji there is an intensive development of tourism. Hotel complexes are build, investors from abroad take over, rich Gambians establish their second homes, which are rent at very high prices. The local population is displaced by this kind of tourism. There are no restrictions for land acquisition, that protect locals.”
We leave the region of the Landscape of the Year and continue westwards. There are no special action points on the agenda, so we have time to think about the arguments of Omar Jammeh, director of “Just Act”, concerning problems and chances of tourism in the Janjanbureh region, which shall be improved through the Landscape of the Year activities.
Interview with Omar Jammeh, director of “Just Act” (Janjanbureh United for Sustainable Tourism and Community Training):
Omar, the organisation “Just Act” was founded in 2010 and is dedicated to sustainable tourism. What are your aims?
The focus of our work is the support of sustainable tourism, especially by qualifications and trainings of young people for jobs in the tourism sector.
We are on the way to a tree-planting event again – this time in Korop, east of Janjanbureh and close to The Gambia River. We leave the island via a new bridge with an ambivalent feeling: job losses for those working on the ferries versus improvement of the accessibility, also in the name of tourism? On the other hand, tourism is an important employer …
Another highlight of the trip: The Kankurang-Festival in Janjanbureh. The whole city is busy and that night the opening ceremony takes place. This festival is happening again after a long break thanks to the “Landscape of the Year” and the goal is to re-establish the festival in Janjanbureh long-term. We are warmly welcomed and are brought to our designated places. The maskarades of the Kankurang are an intangible cultural UNESCO-heritage since 2008. Omar Jammeh, director of the Naturefriends partner organisation “Just Act”, thinks this is fantastic: „It is important that the cultural traditions of the region are not lost and the youth continues to care for them. We are happy that even young people can act as guides to the cultural heritage of the country and the region.“
We are driving to the Senegalese-Gambian border via Maka Gouye and visit the „Women’s Initiative Gambia” in Njaw – an absolute highlight. Aisha, a really amazing and strong woman, greets us. For her, there won’t be any development without women and she plants trees with her group since 1997, is involved in the support of youth and women as well as promoting healthy eating and processing recyclable material into products that are being sold in their store. They have their own bank, where the money is being stored – partly for the whole group, partly for the individuals. A story worth repeating!