The Paris Agreement—Connecting the Dots in The Gambia

The Paris Agreement—Connecting the Dots in The Gambia

In 2021 the little known nation of The Gambia, already ravaged by climate crises, nevertheless became the 1st country in the entire world set to fully honor the Paris Agreement—it barely made a blip in the international news.

During the decade before, my country experienced mass “irregular migration” to the West. It seemed the land, the soil itself, would no longer support the people’s very survival.

By this time, the effects of climate change had already pummeled small scale communal farming, which constitutes the majority of farms in the country. In fact, about 75% of workers in the country labor in the agricultural sector, mainly as smallholder farmers in formal or sometimes informal associations called Kafos.

Women constitute a whopping 70% of the farming population and nearly all of them do not own the lands where they labor because of patriarchal systems of land ownership. The severely depleted crop yields that skyrocketed food insecurity are born of all the same climate change side effects we see here—erratic and/or insufficient rainfall, rising temperatures, the mismatch between emerging climate and crop suitability, loss of biodiversity, rising seas levels—only magnified.

The crisis forced over a 100,000 people to the West, making The Gambia the country with the highest rate of risky “irregular migration” to Europe from the African continent. Many of them are people who might otherwise be farming in community but were forced to flee starvation and/or political prosecution and corruption, and/or the reality of a lack of available work. Determined to be THE single breadwinner to support an entire extended family back home, they risked everything or rafts not meant for long journeys by sea to reach a continent populated by large swaths of people they know deplore them and blame them for their own life challenges. Many joined the remains of their ancestors who journeyed hundreds of years before against their will at the bottom of the sea.

In the wake of thousands of Gambians fleeing, farmers today are visited by international organizations seeking to make positive contributions to the farming sector who too often fail to ask, “What do you know and what do you have to teach us about the regenerative farming practices that served you for hundreds of years?” That one-side engagement has predictable and devastating results: thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean, heading to Europe, and now America seeking agency and the stability of a carbon-heavy lifestyle.

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