Small But Mighty

Small But Mighty

The country of my birth, The Gambia, is small. I’m fact, it’s THE smallest country on the African continent. I see that description of it in nearly every article I read about The Gambia. But it’s important to note that it’s unique shape and size stems from a tug of war that resulted in a scramble and a territorial agreement reached in the 19th century that left Great Britain controlling The Gambia and the lower Gambia River and France controlling Senegal. As the country experiences climate change-related challenges exacerbated by centuries of having their land overtaken and extracted from by imperialists, colonizers, through monarchic subjugation, and a 22-year period of brutal dictatorship and economic mismanagement, there still exists within its narrow boundaries a profound richness, not of mineral resources like gold or diamonds or coveted minerals like coltan that are used in digital tech, but in the unwavering spirit and ingenuity of its farmers.


As far as resources go, Gambia’s economy relies primarily on agriculture due to limited in-ground resources extracted for the global market. Nevertheless, the ingenuity and resourcefulness of women farmers particularly in harnessing aquatic, agricultural and material resources, has driven economic activity from the pre-colonial, colonial, to contemporary times with contributions that helped to define the very fabric of Gambian society, it’s economy, and culture. Working within a patriarchal context that limited their voices and authority, they assumed multifaceted roles as agro-ecologists, oyster harvesters, fisherwomen, selling, processing and trading their harvests from the land, river and ocean and facilitating the vibrant exchange of goods and ideas within their communities and beyond. For centuries, they lived simple yet rich lives, scarcely dependent on fossil fuels with the tiniest of carbon footprints. Until the effects of climate change began to have dramatic effects on the atmosphere and weather, these endeavors empowered women farmers to indirectly shape economic and political priorities across generations when they had no other means to do so.


Although farming seems inconsequential in its ability to mitigate climate crises, soil constitutes THE largest ecosystem on the planet. How and where we produce food is one of, if not the most, important conservation issue of the 21st century. Meeting the challenge of sustaining life must include learning from and empowering the women farmers who steward the land.

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