Mr. Banjul Yaffa, a Contact Farmer showing previously inaccessible land at the Masembe rice fields to a regional agricultural director and an agriculture expert (Photo Credit: MSJoof/TNBES)
This project has a lot of benefits for us, he said of the roads leading to the village’s rice fields that are meant for farmers to have more access to previously inaccessible land for cultivation.
A causeway is a raised road or path across ground that is wet or sometimes covered by water.
“It has elevated our status. Before, farmers cannot access vast lands of the fields, but today almost all the women are cultivating rice in previously inaccessible land,” Mr. Yaffa said.
“This has increased the amount of rice cultivated and the amount of produce harvested at the end of the growing season. If we use to have 50 percent in the past, I can say, at present we are having 100 percent because more people are going to the fields without much problems and we cultivate as much as possible.”
Very difficult to cross
A major challenge for rice growers in the Kiang District has been a lack of access to cultivable land due to bad, dangerous and deadly routes to the fields. Before the Nema project’s intervention, there was no access road and no bridge at the Masembe rice fields.
Mr. Yaffa said getting to the rice fields safe was one of “our biggest challenges.” He said it was always difficult for rice farmers, the majority of them, women, to access the land.
He said because the condition of the road to the fields was bad, the women were always scared to use it alone – they would need company, just in case they find themselves in danger of falling down while trying to cross poorly-made crossing points referred to as “bridges.”
“Before the intervention of the Nema project, the second ‘bridge’ was ‘very difficult to cross’ with a heavy load, especially for the women, it was very risky to cross,” he said.
“What we have there was a locally-made bridge, women with their harvest on their heads use to fell down and sustain injuries,” he said, recalling that “there was an accident in which a woman carrying her rice produce fell-off the ‘bridge’ and was injured – she was rushed to a health centre.”
More food stock
However, following the construction of two causeways for the upland and lowland by the Nema project, an increase in rice production and yield means households, mainly engaged in subsistence farming, have more food stock.
According to Mr. Yaffa, previously, their harvest would last for only three months or less when used for household consumption. But when the causeway was constructed, the produce from the rice fields in now taking households up to six months before it runs-out from their stores.
“This is because the access road has enabled us to produce more than we were able to produce in the past,” the Contact Farmer said. “We have been able to increase the amount of hectares we use to cultivate.”
Mr. Yaffa is not a full-time rice grower but his wife is. However, he, like other men of the village, is fully involved in the transplanting stage. The task of producing rice, a staple, is entirely left to the women at Masembe village. The men’s predominant occupation is growing cash crops like groundnut and fishing.
He said after every harvest his wife gets between eight to ten “big baskets” of rice. This can take his family for up to six or seven months of feeding.
“Our produce from the rice field is for our family consumption only,” he said. “We only sell produce from our gardens, groundnuts and salt harvesting.”
“[The causeway] has elevated our status. Before, farmers cannot access vast lands of the fields, but today almost all the women are cultivating rice in previously inaccessible land,” Mr. Yaffa said.
More people participating
Mr. Yaffa said more people are now participating in rice production because of the availability of an access road.
He said the causeway did not only increased access to more land, it also improve “our lives and livelihoods.” He also said it has become easier to persuade the young to support their parents in the rice fields – they can now do it without any problems.
“Today, we produce more and the money we were using to buy imported rice is saved for some other purposes in the household,” Yaffa said.
Supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Nema project aims to improve productivity through land and water management and integrated value chain.
It aims to strengthen the agricultural sector to increase productivity, improve farmers’ income, expand rural economy for employment creation, and reduce food imports.
Written by Modou S. Joof
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