The Independent (Banjul)

26 July 2004

Gambia: Diabugu Tops 'All School's Tree Nursery Competition'

Banjul — The "All School's Tree Nursery Competition" in the Upper River Division, recently concluded with an award ceremony held at the Regional Education Office in Basse. This pilot project was initiated and supported by Peace Corps, the Department of Forestry, the Department of Education and CRDFP.

"The purpose of this competition was to promote nursery management in schools, making available fruit and woodlot trees, especially native species, while providing a source of income. I was highly impressed with the number of schools and the quality of participation throughout the URD," said Matarr Badjan, the Divisional Forestry Officer for the URD.

In an attempt to promote resourcefulness and sustainability, schools were only given a tree planting manual and were encouraged to contact extensionists for technical advice. Out of 80 schools, more than 36 % participation rate with 29 schools actively competing in the competition has been anticipated.

" Acquiring such skills is important so that later you can plant trees in the absence of Peace Corps and the Forestry Department. Skills acquisition in these regards leads to greater sustainability," said Karamo Drammeh, representing the Regional Education Office.

Pushing for greater self-reliance, the contest provided many schools the opportunity to find imaginative ways to combat lack of resources and overcome unexpected obstacles. Everything, from the collection of seeds in the bush to the transplanting of seedlings, was left to the school discretion.

"Headmasters and students were very creative. Instead of polypots, schools used sugar bags, sowed rice bags together, used old cardboard boxes and cans and one school even used old dilapidated empty flashlights. The schools were also very creative finding places to store their seedlings in cases where school garden fences were a problem, such as students' backyards, teachers quarters and in one case an abandoned building," remarked Sarah Stewart, a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in Basse.

1st prize was awarded to Diabugu Basic Cycle. Their tree nursery included 738 trees seedlings consisting of over 20 varieties including Sisal, Mango, Cashew, Citrus, Gmelina, Mahogany, Eucalyptus, Rosewood and Ironwood. The school also used manure tea, created local pesticides, sewed plastic bags into polypots and constructed a fence out of local materials.

"It is the community who will benefit from this competition. These trees will be here long after we go," said Kemo Kinteh, garden master at Diabugu Basic Cycle.

For 1st prize, Diabugu Basic Cycle was awarded 2 watering cans, 2 shovels, 2 rakes, l00 polypots, 250 meters barbed wire, 1 kilo of nails, and a case of Vimto that was donated by Julbrew Breweries. The 2nd place went to Numuyel Lower Basic, 3rd to St. Joseph's Lower Basic, 4th to Nafugan Lower Basic, and Niankui Lower Basic took 5th.

"For us, we are happy. As the saying goes, No Trees No Life. For children, trees mean a lot. They need the support and protection of the trees.

Agriculture and forestry are the backbone of this country," commented Michael Manneh, Deputy Head of Saint Josephs Lower Basic.

At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, the organizers of the event were already planning on expanding the event for the coming year.

"I am happy to announce that the Tree Nursery Competition will be an annual event in the URD and that next year the CRD will also be participating in this competition," declared Badjan.

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