By Kawsu Fatoumatta Csay Sillah
Fatoumata Drammeh hails from the village of Misirah in the Sandu District of the Upper River Region North. Fatoumata is twenty-nine years old and married with three children, all of whom are girls. She attended Misirah Primary School and Diabugu Junior Secondary School where she dropped out of school because her parents could not cope with the financial demands of the school coupled with family expenses. Fatoumata, a young determined girl had to unwillingly leave school at the age of sixteen which was contrary to her desires and aspirations.
Having left school in teenage, the only productive work the family thought the young Fatoumata could do was to involve herself in household chores. Fatoumata being a very obedient girl did’t utter a word on whatever her parents advised her to do. Although she did not go to school, Fatoumata admired her colleagues who did. “I used to borrow my friends’ books and read, and join them in their activities but I was not allowed go to school every morning,” cries Fatomata narrating her own ordeal.
The second decade of Fatoumata’s life left her with no option but to face matrimonial life. Her parents felt that it was time for the young Fatoumata to enter into womanhood. Thus she became married and was soon blessed with a daughter. Unfortunately Fatoumata was widowed after two years of her marriage, causing frustration and trauma. Life became difficult for her and her family because Fatoumata and the daughter became a liability for them instead of an asset. Her participation in the household chores became less because of the psychological torture and her deteriorating health. But wait, her life did not end there.
Fatoumata met Fabakary Sanneh and married him. Fabakary was a native of Misirah village in his early forties. He was was not based in the village because he spent his time mainly in the urban centers looking for casual works as way of generating money to go to Europe. Fakary, as he was commonly called, soon realized that success in life did not depend on going to Europe. He thought over this for several months and restored confident in himself to come back to his home in village and started farming.
Life slowly moved for Fatoumata and Fakary but poverty was still a challenge. The URRLIFE project, which kicked off in January 2008, proved to be a solution to the challenges of the couple, and hence proved that the downfall of a woman is not the end of her life.
Through this project, an enterprising opportunity came to the salvage of the people of Wuli and Sandu Districts. Lack of employment opportunities and agronomic skills are issues that retard agro-based economic development in this region forcing youths to venture into risky journeys to the so-called Babylon. The result of which includes loss of lives and poor yield and productivity.
Fatoumata without wasting much time banked on this opportunity with the full support of her husband. Fatoutama attended the nine-month Agriculture Training programme at the Njawara Training Center (NATC) where she obtained a certificate in Agricultural Production with specialization in Horticulture. Based on her performance in the course, Fatoumata developed her business plan and requested a total loan amount of GMD 23,000. Fatoumata had to sign an agreement with WASDA before receiving the loan, but she found it very difficult to have a guarantor with collateral that is equivalent or more than the total loan requested. Her husband was very much willing to help, by giving all his belongings as collateral, but this was far from his ability. Finally a selfless human being, Mamady Sanneh, scarified his farm implements as a mean for Fatoumata to qualify for the loan, even though he has no direct relationship with Fatoumata.
After signing the loan agreement, Fatoumata opened a savings account with the WASDA Cooperative Credit Union and registered as a member. The husband as promised provided the fence poles, joined the well diggers and fenced the half hectare vegetable garden barely one month before the loans were given.
Fatoumata began utilizing her skills in the garden. The first demonstration of her new agronomic skill was the layout of her bed which many of the women farmers admired and started to replicate in their gardens. Fatoumata started effective production of vegetables in June 2010. Because of her skills, she was able to easily market her offerings.
Fatoumata currently has savings of over GMD 10,000. The income generating capacity of her household has tremendously increased as a result of this project. “Thanks to the URRLIFE project, the extension workers and the entire leaders for reshaping and restoring my confidence in life,” says Fatoumata Drammeh.