2015 in review

A great big thank you for the THREE THOUSAND visits you have made to this site. Although I can’t spend as much time as I’d like in The Gambia I hope to keep posting interesting snippets about the country during 2016.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bumper Tourist Season Forecast

A total of 154 tourists from Holland have arrived in The Gambia ahead of the next tourism season opening in October, 2015, APA reported on Saturday.

The earlier arrival of the first tourist flight is, according to officials of The Gambia Tourism Board (GTB), a signal of an expected bumper record of arrivals in the upcoming season compared to last year when the Ebola epidemic elsewhere in West Africa scared them off.
Speaking at the Banjul International Airport shortly after the arrival of the tourists on Friday evening, the Director General of GTB, Abdoulie Hydara said, his country remains a true tourism hub in the region despite the setback experienced last year when many would-be holidaymakers cancelled their visit after the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
He said although there was no single Ebola case in The Gambia, its proximity to countries worse-hit by the epidemic made it difficult for tourists to regard it as a safe destination for a holiday.
“This is due to the unfair reporting on the disease by the media”, he told the state broadcaster GRTS.
Meanwhile, GTB officials are optimistic over a successful tourism season with thousands more tourists from Europe and other parts of the world expected to arrive in The Gambia starting in October.

New Banknotes

A local newspaper, The Point, has reported the introduction of two new banknotes. Some people think a D500 note would be useful for business and tourism (500 dalasi is about £7). The new notes will be plasticised so should last longer than the current paper notes. Few people in The Gambia have bank accounts so notes can get very worn before they get to a bank to be withdrawn.

A picture of the new, plasticised 20D note. It is similar to the 25D, but is green instead of blue. It features a bee eater and the President.
The new D20 note.

The new D20 note features pictures of a bee-eater and the President.  I have not seen a description of the D200 note.

Our house in Gambia is for sale; read more here – https://liveingambia.wordpress.com/home-for-sale-in-the-gambia/

Gambia gets new D20 and D200 notes

Africa » Gambia

Thursday, February 26, 2015

President Yahya Jammeh yesterday launched the new D20 polymer currency note and series of redesigned Gambian banknotes, a press statement has said.

The event, which took place at State House, also witnessed the introduction of a D200 note.

The redesigned banknotes bear the portrait of President Jammeh and are smaller in size than the existing paper-based banknotes.

The D20 will replace the existing D25 banknote which will continue to be legal tender and will continue to circulate until it is fully withdrawn over time, the release stated.

The historic event held at State House formed part of activities marking the country`s Golden Jubilee.

In his statement, President Jammeh urged Gambians to take ownership of the new banknotes and handle them with care.

He called on the Gambian populace to familiarize themselves with the new banknotes, and help in ensuring their protection from counterfeiters.

He assured De La Rue, the firm that printed the country`s currency, of the government`s continued partnership.

The Governor of The Central Bank of The Gambia, Amadou Colley, said the redesigned banknotes have been produced using cutting edge technology.

The move, he said, is designed to enhance the security of the country’s currency for improved economic growth.

A representative of De La Rue, Tom Lee, explained that The Gambia is a year ahead of the Bank of England in introducing the polymer banknotes.

Connecting The Gambia

Bridge

Contracts have been signed to build a bridge over the River Gambia at Farrafenni. The idea was first discussed over 35 years ago in 1978 and it has taken until now to finalise arangements.

A bridge across the River Gambia will unite two halves of the country as well as reducing the travel time between north and south Senegal.

As well as improving access for Gambians, the tourist trade will be boosted as tourists can only reach attractions on the North Bank such as the stone circle at Wassa and the Roots village by using one of the ferries which ply their trade across the river.

The Trans-Gambia Highway provides the most important connection between the two parts of Senegal. As the N4, it runs from Kaolack and Nioro, across Gambia and then into Bignona and Ziguinchor in the Casamance. The actual Gambian section is only 25 km long. It runs through Farafenni and Soma but the 800 metre width of the Gambia River can only be crossed by a connecting ferry.

The project has attracted international funding and the African Development Bank has provided US$65m for the construction which has been awarded to Spanish and Senagalese companies and is expected to take at least three years.

The project aims to create an economic and strategic link to connect the northern and southern parts of both Gambia and Senegal. After completion of the bridge, the country will be able to allow free traffic flow between the northern and southern parts of both the countries.

Apart from the construction of the bridge, the project also includes the rehabilitation of 15km of feeder roads and construction of two regional markets.

The bridge has been designed so it can adapt to climate change especially to extreme events such as floods, increased salinity and temperature in the project area. It will allow for better traffic flow at a nominal speed of at least 40km/h.

Sources: Roadtraffic-technology, African Review, Wikipedia

3 articles on the danger of Ebola paranoia

TED Talks have collected 3 articles about Ebola paranoia; they are all written from an American perspective but are relevant to the rest of the world.

ideas.ted.com

It’s Halloween — and the only thing scarier than Ebola this week is Ebola paranoia. Should you panic in bowling alleys? How justified is your fear of hospitals? Are mandatory quarantines even legal in the U.S., anyway? 3 ideas behind the news.

Source: “Thomas Eric Duncan and Craig Spencer: Race, nationality and rhetoric of Ebola patients,”Slate, 2014.
Why you should read this article: There’s a casual racism to most Ebola fearmongering in the U.S. This article spells it out. For further reading on the issue, start with this history of racist moral panic over disease.

Source: “David Quammen on Ebola, globalization and viral epidemics,” Ebola Deeply, 2014.
Why you should read this Q&A: Does being forced into an Ebola tent violate your civil rights? Yes, says David Quammen, author of Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus — and we need more national conversation about…

View original post 71 more words

The 2014-15 Tourist Season has begun.

The Observer has reported that the first tourist flight of this season has arrived in The Gambia.

The maiden flight for the 2014/2015 tourism season Saturday evening touched down at the Banjul International Airport (BIA), officially marking the beginning of the season.

The flight, carrying 200 tourists, was received by officials of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), grand tour operator, Gambia International Airlines (GIA) and members of the press.

The Thomas Cook UK flight Boeing 757-200 with inscription G-FCLK and British flag, touched Banjul exactly at 19:30 hours.

Tourism and Culture Minister Benjamin A. Roberts, who was present at the foot of the aircraft, pleasantly welcomed the tourists to the Smiling Coast of Africa.

Speaking to the press at the airport arrival hall, Minister Roberts indicated his impression over the arrival of the Thomas Cook UK flight to the destination. The minister stated that a lot has been done to extend the season from six months to eight months before the sudden challenge of Ebola Viral Disease (EVD), which is present in some West African countries since February, this year.

With the arrival of Thomas Cook UK flight, the minister said it is impressive and that it gives sense of optimism for the current season taking into account the fact that the carrier is a “key player in the sector”.

He however indicated that prior to arrival of Thomas Cook, Arky Airline on Wednesday flew in a numbers of tourists from Holland. He expressed hope that in the month of November, a deeper understanding of how the season would look like in terms of postponed flights would have been established.

The acting director general of GTBoard, Ousainou Senghore, described the arrival of the 200 tourists as “very impressive”, saying it will go a long way towards helping the sector to achieve its target for the 2014/2015 tourism season.

“This is a sign of confidence to have first flight fully booked with 200 passengers,” he said. He added that it was a clear sign that GTBoard marketing strategy and sensitisation against the EVD are going well so far, thus expressing hope that this season will be equally great.

Though Thomas Cook is doing one flight a week for the month of October, acting DG Senghore however noted that so long the drive is there, the number of the demand will surely increase.

The Operations manager at Gambia Tours, Christine Azar, expressed delight at the start of the Thomas Cook UK flight for the month. She said despite the challenges currently facing the African Tourism sector, her institution is very happy to see that Thomas Cook continued to make the flight to Destination Gambia.

She expressed hope that Thomas Cook will continue flying to Destination Gambia until the end of May 2015 as planned. She said the flight will come once a week this month, but hopefully it will increase the number in next month.

Revised Date for West African Monetary Union

Member states of the West African Monetary Zone ((WAMZ), including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, the Gambia and Guinea, are now considering year 2020 for the launch of their long-drawn Monetary Union as well as the adoption of a single currency, having yet again, obviously missed the January 1, 2015 for the project.

The shift of the launch date became imperative following a preparedness study commissioned by the 32nd meeting of the WAMZ Convergence Council which found that member states were yet to meet all the set convergence criteria for the establishment of a monetary union and the single currency- the Eco.

This is not the first time that the WAMZ would miss launch dates for the monetary union project. Since 2009, no two countries consistently satisfied all the four primary convergence criteria for two consecutive years.

In 2013, for instance, only Nigeria met all the four convergence criteria.

Liberia and Sierra Leone satisfied three each while Ghana, the Gambia and Guinea met only two criteria each.

Godwin Emefiele, governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said on Wednesday the latest preparedness report may have informed the decision of the ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments to approve the Modified Gradualist Approach to monetary integration by 2020.

In a keynote address to the 31st meeting of the Committee of Governors of the WAMZ in Abuja, Emefiele confirmed that the January 1, 2015 launch date is again no longer likely since study showed that the performance of member states on the convergence scale relative to requirements for the establishment of a monetary union was still inadequate.

Emefiele, who chaired the meeting, also noted that member countries’ business cycle synchronisation in terms of real GDP, inflation, broad money and interest rates remained weak, while their level of institutional preparedness for the monetary union was still not sufficient.

This article first appeared in busindessdayonline.com

Netto Trees

 

 

 

We had a young friend in our compound recently, asking if he could have the netto seeds from our trees.  The Netto is also known as the African Locust Bean tree, (Parkia biglobosa) a large savanna tree of about 20m high.  Sometimes it’s called the Monkey Cutlass tree from the size and shape of the fruits. Musa and his sister spent about three hours climbing trees and knocking down the clumps of ‘beans’, then gathering them up for transportation via donkey cart back to their compound. The hard work then begins! First the beans are shelled, the yellow flour-like substance is saved in a container and then is pounded to remove the seeds.  It has a bland taste and a floury texture ( I have tried it). I understand from our friend that the flour is often given to babies as a first food.  It is a carbohydrate which is either used on its own, or mixed in with other foods for substance. The seeds are also used in cooking.

 

There are other uses for the beans. The outer cover is an insect repellant, and the seeds and flour are used as medicine for toothache, sore eyes, burns and fever amongst other things.

Close up of netto beans Picking up netto The workers

 

 

Photographs

There is a new page which is a gallery of photographs of our house and compound.

I have taken some more today but for some reason the camera is not talking to the laptop. This is a problem I don’t need on a Friday afternoon because I do need to go to the beach for a swim in the warm Atlantic Ocean, a cold Julbrew or two and to catch up on world events with my friends. So in line with my stress avoidance procedure, I am going to ignore the problem until tomorrow. 🙂

Bees

This post isn’t going to be about Gambia!

I’ve just had a Facebook conversation with our son. He has got bees in his garage and wants to know what to do.  I used to keep bees in the UK but haven’t organised any hives since arriving in The Gambia. It was my intention to make a few top bar hives and try and lure some colonies into residence but, somehow, I haven’t got around to it.

Should I direct him to http://www.beesfordevelopment.org who promote a natural style of beekeeping and support beekeepers in the developing world (and who I did a little volunteering for in the UK) or should I tell him to talk to the local beekeeping association (www.gbka.org.uk) who favour ‘modern’ practices but who have the great advantage of being local? I know both organisations would be happy to offer advice.

European Honey Bee
European Honey Bee

The thing about bees is that they look after themselves.  They have lived without help from beekeepers for millions of years and as long as they have a dark, enclosed space to rear brood and store supplies, there is nectar and pollen  within a couple of kilometres and predators (e.g. beekeepers) don’t take too much honey, they will usually survive. Diseases and parasites take their toll but don’t have as much effect as poisoning by pesticides and poor farming practices – but that’s a blog for another day.

It seems that the colony have set up home inside his garage. Like most garages this is only used for storage so there is no danger of engine fumes poisoning the bees.  They have set up home in a space in the roof which is accessible and this  isn’t causing any problems. He seems to like the idea of becoming a beekeeper, but doesn’t want to do any work (typical kid!) and thinks we can sort them out next time we return to the UK. We probably can and, to be honest, leaving the bees alone in a sheltered position is probably going to be good for them.