Since 2014: Tanji Education Center for Permaculture (TEC)

At the FVH General Assembly on 2 June 2014, the first step was taken for the Tanji Education Center for Permaculture (TEC). At that time, the FVH Board was mandated to launch a new project that had to be developed sustainably, was committed to education, created jobs and was in the sole responsibility of the FVH. This was triggered by the fact that The Gambia had meanwhile developed into one of the main countries of origin of African refugees and we wanted to initiate a project that would offer young Gambians the perspective of a secure existence.

The widespread poverty, high unemployment and above all the lack of any prospects for a better future tempt many young Gambians to make the dangerous journey to Europe – in search of a better life. They are mostly between 18 and 30 years old and first move from rural areas to the areas around the capital of Banjul, and from there they continue on to Europe. This is a humanitarian catastrophe that we cannot solve as a small NGO.

As a small, efficient organisation, however, we can help those young Gambians and local families who are directly involved in our projects. Be it through meaningful work, knowledge transfer or education in the sense of our credo “helping people to help themselves”. This way we make an important, albeit small, contribution to improving the livelihoods of many families by giving them a perspective in their beloved home country.

TEC is therefore much more than just an agricultural project: we want to make a contribution to fight against the ongoing refugee crisis by employing young men and women, training them in natural agriculture and, in addition, making our knowledge available to all interested persons.

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TEC Vision: “TEC becomes GAMBIA’s research and competence centre for Permaculture – a place to learn, exchange and understand the principles of natural farming, open for everyone in The Gambia.”

 

TEC Mission: “We empower local families with know-how, materials and tools to starting their own micro-farming based on the principles of Permaculture to provide a sustainable livelihood.”
Aerial view of Tanji Education Center for Permaculture, Juli 2022

Historically, agriculture has been the backbone of The Gambia, just as it has been in Switzerland. Nevertheless, all vegetables and practically all fruits are now imported from abroad, although The Gambia has good soil and sufficient water. There is a lack of knowledge on how to cultivate and care for the soil and a lack of opportunities for young Gambians to acquire this practical knowledge.

In 2014, the FVH was able to acquire a plot of land of 1.5 hectares in Tanji, about 30 minutes south of the tourist centre of Serekunda. In 2018, the plot, which is characterised by almost 30 large mango trees, was provided with a water pump and several reservoirs. In November 2019, the farm house and the composting toilet were completed. From January 2020, the land was developed piece by piece in the spirit of sustainable and natural agriculture.

Our TEC farm building, July 2022.

Under the expert guidance of Mamadou Baldeh, our farm manager since 2019, and supported by our permaculture aficionado Patrick Müller, who lives just 10 minutes south of our property since 2016 and is responsible for the further development of the project as our farm supervisor, 5 to 10 young women and men from the surrounding area learn the basic knowledge of nature-based agriculture. We always follow the principles of permaculture and avoid chemical pesticides, fungicides or insecticides whenever possible.

Mamadou and Patrick (back) with Ebrima, Binta, Fanta, Hamat and Baboucarr in July 2022.

Together, this team has managed to transform the TEC property from an arid and barren landscape into a wonderfully fertile permaculture garden. However, it was never our goal to simply keep a beautiful farm growing organic fruits and vegetables. It was always our goal to create a place of shared expertise. A place where interested people can learn about the advantages and disadvantages, the natural forces and cycles of permaculture as well as to exchange ideas on how to apply them.

The result is a lush garden for permaculture, where we share and pass on our hard-earned knowledge about the daily work in the field. It is therefore a great success that more and more private individuals and organisations inquire directly with Mamadou or Patrick about a tour of TEC and subsequently request a consultation on their own plots. The Department for Agriculture of The Gambia College has also expressed interest in exploring a partnership with TEC, e.g. in the form of “practical studies”. Like us they see nature-based agriculture, as we practice it at TEC, as a great opportunity for the future of agriculture in The Gambia.

It is our goal to develop TEC into a centre of excellence for permaculture in The Gambia and to make it economically viable in the long term. This requires that we continuously optimise the quality and quantity of our harvests and process them into attractive natural products (e.g. sun-dried mangoes or lemongrass tea, preserved tomatoes or pickled vegetables), which we can then sell to local hotels and restaurants.

Considering that soon every square metre of our land will already be cultivated, it is imperative that we can make additional land usable in the immediate vicinity. By scaling the harvest and consequently the sales, we secure the financial future of the project. The FVH board is therefore striving to find a solution on how we can scale up TEC with additional land. The focus is on neighbouring land, because this will allow us to continue using the infrastructure we have already built at TEC.

Although our work over the past years is beginning to bear fruit, we continue to rely on the financial support of our members, friends and institutions. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about this unique project (info@fvh.ch).

 

Our fields are irrigated mainly with watering cans, without complex and cost-intensive driplines, which a Gambian family cannot afford anyway – we show how it can also be done with pure muscle power!

CONSTRUCTION WORKS FROM 2017 UNTIL 2020

In 2017 we drilled a bore hole and installed a water pump and tank to provide water to our land.

Our plot before we started with the construction of our farm house in 2017

Foundation-work (November 2018)
Cement work/columns (December 2018)

Roofing (March 2019)

Bricklaying (April 2019)
TEC Bauphase 4

Finishment of walls (May 2019)

Start of mini farming project (July 2019)

Construction of metal stair for access to clean solar panels on the roof (August 2019)

Finish of main building (October 2019)

Installation of solar panel equipment by our partner charity FANDEMA that trains youth women in The Gambia to become solar engineers: www.m-bolo.org (October 2019)

A special highlight: the completion of the long-planned compost toilet (so-called “Urine-diverting dry toilet”, or UDDT). We developed this small side project within TEC because many diseases are transmitted in The Gambia due to a lack of toilet facilities or poor hygiene. With the idea of the waterless UDDT, we have taken up an internationally and EU-funded concept that has never been realised in West Africa before.

The finished toilet contains two cubicles that allow safe and clean business. One cubicle each for women and men. In the process, the facility separates urine and faeces so that the faeces dry up in a relatively short time and can be used as valuable fertiliser; the urine is used in a 50/50 ratio for irrigation with water.

Installement of a brand new 150 metres fence to protect our small plants from the wild animals that used to jump the old fence (April 2020).

Seeding and planting in Spring 2020.

Tasty TEC-Papayas, Cabbage and Cucumbers!

Renovation of our caretaker Bubacarr’s house in June 2020.

Since 2022, 20 to 30 chickens are living on TEC and provide us with lots of valuable manure to fertilise the nutrient-poor soil in the spirit of permaculture.

FVH projects in The Gambia
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Since its founding in 1998, more than CHF 2 millions has been invested to develop, support and maintain projects in the areas of health, education and agriculture in The Gambia. The FVH cooperates closely with the governmental ministries of The Gambia in order to adapt the country’s programmes and strategies in these areas. Please have a look at our current and past projects in The Gambia.

Nursery School in Kunkujang
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The construction of the public school in Kunkujang was the FVH’s first project in The Gambia. Later we expanded the school to seven classrooms to accommodate more than 300 children. And over time we added a vegetable garden, a playground, a football field, a kitchen and a space for sewing classes.

Rossi Clinic in Pakali Ba
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As the nearest medical station is more than 100 km away, in 2011 we decided to renovate a vacant building and set up a small clinic for births and primary medical care. In 2012 the clinic was named after a generous donor to the FVH.

Godchild Giki
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Giki Barrow was born in 2000, and we support his education with the aim that Giki will be able to build a sustainable existence in adulthood.

«Wide Open Walls»

Wide Open Walls is an international and intercultural project launched in 2010, aiming to raise awareness of the need for peace, understanding and respect, allowing international creatives to experience Africa, and aiding the local community. It was founded by the British Lawrence Williams, wanting to enliven the area of the village called Galloya with a sustainable tourism and specific projects that helped the people of the area.

Some of the best artists from all over the world like Sickboy, Know Hope, Xenz, Tika, David Shillinglaw, RUN, Remi Rough, ROA, Lucy McLauchlan, INSA, Eelus, Bushdwellers, Broken Crow and Best Ever joined Wide Open Walls by creating art on the houses of Galloya. FVH ideationallysupports Wide Open Walls and made a donation in 2016 to maintain this amazing project.