There’s a lot we can learn from Africa; how to smile in the face of adversity, how to work to a rhythm instead of to a deadline, how to make do with little and how to be in community.
This story begins back in 1998 when a friend and I, being young and naïve, bought some land in the Nuimi district of The Gambia in West Africa.
I had only meant to have a quick adventure, get some headspace and learn some traditional African drumming. Anyway, we teamed up with some local Gambians and started working together on this four-acre plot of semi wild scrub.
The land lies on the estuary of the river Gambia and it supports an amazing array of birdlife, as well as some huge baobab trees, a giant teak, lots of palms, and an area of rice field.
I fell in love with this place, where life felt very simple and where we were able to work without the sense of bureaucracy that I was used to in the UK. At that time, aged 23, I knew little and learned a lot.
On and off, I spent seven years visiting, digging wells, drumming, planting trees and inviting visitors to camp with me over the winter months. We helped to support the maintenance of the project through our humble means. Then came studies, two children, and life. I left my Gambian friend Kabiro and his family living there, I didn't visit for a long time, and lost touch.
Transformed - into a flourishing community garden
When I returned earlier this year after a seven-year absence, I had no idea what to expect. What I found was that the place has now become a community garden and is used by several local families.
Although many of the wells have fallen in, and the fence has half disappeared, the trees we planted fifteen years ago are now producing coconuts, mangoes, cashews, and other fruits. There is a sense of both dilapidation, and vibrant growth, and I hope and believe, that a crowd funding campaign can help to create a sustainable sense of growth within this small community.
I enjoy getting my hands in the earth, and I am also a musician. One of the things that I love about working in West Africa, is that instead of taking a break to collapse into a chair, people often drum, dance and sing to generate energy.
Now that I've grown up a bit, I feel that I have an opportunity to do something really positive, and to give my energy to a place and to people who don't have the same benefits and opportunities as we have in the 'West'. If I can keep drumming and dancing I'm sure it will all work out.
I don't feel that it's about 'us' helping 'them'. I feel it's about helping each other. There's a lot we can learn from Africa; how to smile in the face of adversity, how to work to a rhythm instead of to a deadline, how to make do with little and how to be in community.
Visions of a green, productive, joyous future
I'm now hatching plans, not just to maintain this wonderful resource, but to grow it and help to make new and exciting things happen. We are raising money through a crowd funding campaign to set up accommodation on site and a borehole for clean drinking water.
With these two things, we can improve both the quality of life for the Gambians involved, and create opportunities for visitors from abroad to come and support and experience the joys and challenges of Gambian life.
From the amazing birdlife, to the goats that roam and destroy the gardens ... From the traditional Mandinka drumming and dancing to the fixation of the youth of living in Europe ... From the battle to stave off the Sahara desert, to the peace and tranquility of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, there is a lot to be experienced.
Some of the things we want to bring to the project in the future are to facilitate and encourage organic vegetable growing, develop the forest garden, start a community tree nursery, explore alternative technologies, and support local musicians and craftspeople.
Support the 'Kinkeling Community Garden - Sound of the Gambia project' through the crowd funding campaign until 7th December 2015. Every little helps, and you needn't go away empty handed either. We are offering loads of great perks including a range of drums made by our favorite wood carver in The Gambia, kinkeling calendars full of bright images from the garden, music downloads to keep you dancing, and much more.