Atlantic Rising: Gambia’s national clean-up day

| 17th November 2009

Clean-up days are an act of obsience to the president, says Tim Bromfield (photo credit: Will Lorimer)

Gambia needs serious adaption policies rather than monthly clean-up days to cope with rising sea levels and drainage problems

Roll up, roll up, it’s Set Settal! That is Gambia’s National Clean-Up Day.

On the last Saturday of every month President Jammeh calls on his people to sweep their compounds, collect their rubbish and flush their drains.

It is rather like an obligatory day of household chores on a municipal level. But you can get away with asking for that sort of thing if you are His Excellency President Professor Alhaji Dr AJJ Jammeh.

The aim of Set Settal is to bring environmental sanitation through popular participation, explained Mr Dawda Jones, Public Relations Officer for Banjul City Council. Other benefits include removing mosquito breeding grounds and promoting good environmental practice within communities.

And everybody is in on the act.

From Banjul City Councillors turning out to lend a hand in their wards, to the President of the Senegalese Community in Gambia eager to demonstrate SeneGambian unity. And if you are really lucky and work on the President’s farm the workers come together to sing songs in praise of the President’s munificence as they work.

Giant charade

Set Settal is a giant charade of obeisance to the President.

However, rising sea levels are an immediate concern in Gambia. Banjul, the capital, lies between 80cm and 150cm above sea level. If or when sea levels rise the city will be lost. Its tired colonial drainage system is no longer up to the job and high tides bring a flow of sewage, rubbish and dead animals back into the city’s drains.

All the more need for Set Settal then.

But how firm a hand is required? There are signs that Gambians are not happy about being browbeaten into clearing up their municipal areas once a month. A recent memo from the Mayor to his councillors lamented the low turnouts at last month’s Set Settal.

Perhaps it is democracy that needs to be cultivated in Gambia before Gambians can be prevailed upon to wilfully participate in a national campaign of environmental sanitation.

Useful links
Atlantic Rising project website

Million Belay: Ethiopia doesn’t need or want Bill Gates
Ecological campaigner Million Belay talks about why protecting Ethiopia's biodiversity is so important and why he opposes the intervention of philanthropists like Bill Gates
Atlantic Rising: first slavery, then climate change in Gambia
When your island goes from slave staging-post to an outpost on the frontier of rising seas, fate has truly dealt you a poor hand...
Atlantic Rising: rebuilding beaches in Gambia
In Gambia's coastal towns one of the country's chief assets - pristine beaches - is being steadily eroded. In a move to make King Cnut proud, the government is shipping in sand...
Atlantic Rising: planting mangroves to fortify coastlines
The world's largest ever mangrove planting project is underway in Senegal, providing work, habitat and coastal defence all in one


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here