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Cockle and Oyster Fishery Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Special Management Area, The Gambia

This co-management plan is specially prepared for the oyster and cockle harvesting areas within the Tanbi Wetlands National Park. It outlines the legal basis designating the park as a Special Management Area exclusively for use by member of the TRY Women’s Oyster Association.  

http://www.crc.uri.edu/download/Oyster_Plan_Jan_2012_508_Signatures.pdf 

TRY Association Celebrates the Handing over of the WASH Ba’Naafa Project

On the 16th of December 2013 the TRY Women’s `Association celebrated the opening of the Water Supply, Sanitary and Hygiene facilities (WASH) Ba’Naafa Project’s toilets in Karmalo and Jeshwang. The project has given women access to clean water and sanitary toilets which will greatly improve their health and the environment where they work. The TRY Women’s Association is very grateful to USAID and the University of Rhode Island (`URI) for their support on this project. 

 

The women at Karmalo with Karen from the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Anna Mbenga from the Department of Fisheries, and the co-ordinator of TRY, Fatou. 

TRY Association Receives Equator Prize 2012!

We are very happy to announce that TRY Association has recently been chosen as one of the 25 first-round winners of the Equator Prize 2012. Out of 800 competitive applicants from around the world, TRY stood out as one of the top community based organizations using local solutions to create a sustainable balance between people and their natural environments.

TRY will officially receive this award at the Equator Prize Award Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this June. The Equator Prize is under the UNDP Equator Initiative and this ceremony is part of the Initiative’s participation in the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). 

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. The Equator Initiative seeks to:

- Recognize the success of local and indigenous initiatives,

- Create opportunities and platforms to share knowledge and good practice,

- Inform policy to foster an enabling environment for local and indigenous   community action, and

- Develop the capacity of local and indigenous initiatives to scale-up their impact.

Check out all of the Equator Prize 2012 winners here:

http://equatorinitiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=684&Itemid=702

We are so proud of the work we have done and would like to thank everyone who has supported and assisted us along the way.  

Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

The purpose of this management plan is to ensure the sustainable management and development of the fishery and enhanced benefits to those involved in the market value chain. An additional aim is to establish a co-management plan for the nine oyster and cockle harvesting communities within the Tanbi National Park as a pilot and if successful, then gradually expand this co-management model to other harvesting areas in the country.

The development of this management plan is supported by the USAID funded Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (Ba-Nafaa). The Ba-Nafaa project is implemented by the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island and the World Wide Fund for Nature-West Africa Marine Ecoregion (WWF-WAMER), in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, and TRY Oyster Women’s Association.

The Tanbi Wetland National Park was designated as a RAMSAR site (Wetland of International Importance) on World Wetlands Day in 2007. The Tanbi, though it snakes through the urban area of The Gambia’s capital city, consists of 6000 hectares of mangroves. The Government of The Gambia supports the protection and responsible management of the area, specifically because of its high biodiversity, making it a valuable marine resource. It is important that we all work together to keep the ecosystem healthy, and that we do so by promoting sustainable livelihoods rather than using destructive means of harvesting our country’s limited natural resources.

The economic activities surrounding the collection, processing, and marketing of oysters and cockles within the Tanbi National Park are practiced predominantly by women operating in their individual family units. Prior to TRY’s inception in 2007, there was no form of organization, conflict resolution, or management within or between these communities of harvesters. There were no formal rules or regulations except the annual closure during the rainy season.

Participatoty Rapid Appraisals (PRAs) conducted in the cockle and oyster harvesting communities revealed significant concerns about over harvesting. Research shows that that women have to travel longer and farther to harvest, taking more time to gather their cockles and oysters, and are collecting juveniles in the process.  Conflicts between communities are emerging as harvesters start to recognize these realities and discuss, plan, and implement rules for harvesting (e.g. closed season or exclusive community use zones).

Oyster and cockle harvesters currently travel a distance seven times longer than that which they traveled thirty years ago. They also spend more than twice the amount of time harvesting, bringing in a third of what they did in the past. Unfortunately, due to both desperation and, perhaps, ignorance, many of the oyster women are harvesting juveniles: a practice that is both damaging to the oyster population and brings in a product that is useless in the global market. [Note: oysters, when they reach sexual maturity, are males. As they grow older and larger however, they become females.]

As harvesters start to consider these realities, many are thinking about their future livelihoods and discussing what they can do to avoid further degradation of this extremely important resource. Conflicts are arising, however, between different communities over the implementation of various harvesting rules. Participatory Rapid Appraisals (PRA’s) have shown that there is a large amount of concern in the various communities surrounding the issue of over-harvesting.

TRY’s main goal is to improve and sustain the livelihoods of its members; protecting the ecoystem and enforcing sustainable resource management is an imperative facet of this goal. It is our duty to facilitate conflict resolution between the oyster communities, in such a way that guarantees everyone an equal voice. Sustainable development requires intelligent regulations, and though we believe it is our responsibility as an organization to encourage, plan, and implement such rules, it is also our duty to foster ownership and confidence in our members. The co-management plan involves a number of groups, including government bodies, but we believe the creation of these rules should come from agreements made within the oyster women themselves.

Indeed, the co-management of the Tanbi involves working closely with its various stakeholders in order to discuss, plan, and implement measures to ensure the responsible management of our mangroves. Without proper regulations, the ecoystem of the Tanbi will no doubt suffer from human exploitation. We must therefore work together in order to protect it, for the ecosystem itself, and for the hundreds of livelihoods that depend on it.

TRY has already begun co-management planning processes in the oyster and cockle communities within the Tanbi National Park. Each community has its own committee, dedicated and respected leaders within each village. Through our aquaculture trainings and mangrove reforestation projects, to name just a few, TRY has educated its members on the significance of protecting and responsibly managing the ecosystem from which the harvesters benefit.

Now, we have begun the co-management process, discussing and planning with the many groups involved in the Tanbi, hoping to eventually establish legalized regulations, enforced and happily supported by all parties involved.

Under the Fisheries Act of 2007, The Government of The Gambia

“allows for the allocation of property rights for the purposes of community-based management…. Under Section 14 of the Fisheries Act 2007, the Tanbi National Park…is a marine protected area [and] can be designated as a special management area for the purpose of community-based co-management in the interest of conservation, management and sustainable utilization of fisheries resources. In addition, under Section 15 of the Fisheries Act 2007, the Minister of Fisheries may establish Community Fisheries Centres for purposes of community-based fisheries management. Although TRY Association does not constitute a Community Fisheries Center as is found at other coastal fishing communities, TRY Association is an officially registered organization with local committees in each of the nine villages that harvest oysters and cockles in the Tanbi National Park. The TRY Association therefore can be provided exclusive use rights and tasked with responsibilities for the management of the cockle and oyster resources within the Tanbi ecosystem.

So far, the oyster communities have deliberated on a long list of rules and regulations, they’ve made many forward-thinking agreements, though some disagreements remain. If you are interested in knowing the details regarding the specific regulations put in place, or the specific roles of each stakeholder party, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Regulations include, but are not limited to: no-harvest zones, community-specific harvest regions, frequency of harvesting, open access areas, dates for the opening and closing of harvest season, marketing and pricing requirements, professional ID cards, safe harvesting techniques (for the harvester and the mangrove), mangrove conservation projects, alternative livelihood development, and fines for the breaking of any and all regulations.

We are making drastic strides in the right direction: protecting our countries’ natural resources and improving the livelihoods of its citizens. Now, we are working with the involved government bodies to maintain these agreements, as well as with our members to ensure support of these efforts. TRY, along with the Department of fisheries, will continue to research and develop improved practices of oyster and cockle harvesting, particularly in relation to aquaculture. We continue to be devoted to the improvement of the oyster product, and await further advancement in the realm of raw oyster harvesting and distribution on the world market. We are constantly learning more about the oyster itself, and are now looking into funding and partnering with other organizations in order to learn more about possibly transplanting oysters from areas of high to low density.

Aquaculture within the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

Aquaculture


The benefits of aquaculture are undeniable, hence we here at TRY recognize the vast fruits to be had from investment in aquaculture training for our members. The government of The Gambia  has also long since realized aquaculture’s importance as having the potential to increase national fish production and at the same time reducing the country’s dependence on capture fisheries. Although the country’s focus so far has remained on the development of capture fisheries, the development of subsistence, small-scale and commercial aquaculture is a stated government policy.

“In the late 1980’s, the Department of Fisheries conducted research studies on the culture of the mangrove oyster of West Africa (Crassostrea tulipa) under a project funded by the Canadian International Development and Research Cooperation (IDRC). Results of the studies identified great commercial potential for the products but the market was not adequately identified. The rack system of culture employed by the research project was indicated to prove a more efficient method for the exploitation of oysters and is a more sustainable alternative than existing harvest methods which are destructive to the mangrove ecology. Policy makers want to encourage less destructive methods, increase oyster production as well as improve access to credit facilities for the producers.” (Source: Cockle and Oyster Management Plan for the Tanbi Special Management Area)

Prior to the establishment of TRY, ICAM (Integrated Coastal Area Management) funded a project in April of 2005, introducing oyster culture (the hanging method) to the nine communities within the Tanbi National Park. As part of the project, a group of oyster harvesters had the opportunity to travel on a study tour to Senegal, where they received training in oyster culture and improved processing techniques.

A few years later, Mr. Daniel Theisen, ex-Peace Corps Volunteer and current faculty of the University of Maryland was contracted by the Ba Nafaa project to conduct a two-week training project on oyster culture. TRY members from the nine communities within Tanbi National Park were clustered into six groups for training on the construction of lattice racks using bamboo poles ranging from 5-9 cm in diameter. These were arranged in the form of an inverted “V” and tied together with galvanized wire and rope, stringing and hanging of oyster shells onto the poles. Following the end of the training, a demonstration aquaculture rack was constructed in each community.  After this pilot, it was clear that oyster culture is helpful in both protecting the wild mature oysters as a source of spat and protecting the mangroves from damage during harvest time. In fact, the culture of oysters has great potential to improve the food security of the area and the social welfare of the oyster harvesters.

The communities agreed to work with the Department of Fisheries on the development of environmentally friendly oyster aquaculture in the Tanbi wetland.  We are currently finalizing the Memorandi of Understanding between TRY, The Government of The Gambia, The Ministry of Forestry and Environment, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management. With these agreements made, TRY Association will have exclusive rights to oyster farming in the Tanbi Wetland National Park. TRY and our community committees will work with the above parties to establish rules, if necessary, concerning designation of individual or group farming plots. These rules may include establishing locations to be used by specific communities exclusively for aquaculture set-ups.

Interested in Volunteering?

Here at TRY we have many opportunities for you to get involved. Interested in teaching basic business skills and money management to both the women and the girls? Have a background in environmental sustainability and want to work with the women at the landing and harvesting sites? Interested in assisting the office staff with grant writing? 

We prefer volunteers who are planning to stay in The Gambia for at least three months. For more information, email us at tryoysters@gmail.com or contact us by telephone at (220) 9911162 or (220) 7911162.

Fatou's Interview on Radio Cable

Listen to hear Fatou Jahna’s interview on a Spanish internet radio station in November 2011! She discusses her work and experience with TRY and specifically the collaboration between TRY and the Banesto Foundation. The Banesto Foundation, under its tourism initiative, has assisted TRY Association with the provision of a hefty loan and funds for the microfinance program.

Opening of the Oyster Season
We would like to announce the opening of the oyster season on March 1st! We are very happy to bring you SMOKED oysters, now available along the Banjul-Serekunda highway and at Serekunda Market (Mbarri Demba Sonko.)  Oysters can now be purchased by kilograms or by cups. Remember you can always come to the TRY Centre in Old Jeshwang to pick up clean and packaged oysters.
Official 2012 Oyster Prices
(D25/cup) – Smoked Oysters
(D20/cup) – Boiled Oysters
(D15/cup) – Smaller Oysters

Opening of the Oyster Season

We would like to announce the opening of the oyster season on March 1st! We are very happy to bring you SMOKED oysters, now available along the Banjul-Serekunda highway and at Serekunda Market (Mbarri Demba Sonko.)  Oysters can now be purchased by kilograms or by cups. Remember you can always come to the TRY Centre in Old Jeshwang to pick up clean and packaged oysters.

Official 2012 Oyster Prices

(D25/cup) – Smoked Oysters

(D20/cup) – Boiled Oysters

(D15/cup) – Smaller Oysters

Girls Skills Class

During the week, the Centre hosts a skills training class for the young daughters of the oyster harvesters who are no longer attending school due to lack of school fees. There are 20 girls total, all educated to at least the Grade 6 level. Haddy Camara, our volunteer teacher from the Women’s Bureau and the Department of Community Development, Fatou Mboob, the TRY Coordinator, and Fern Aguda-Brown, Peace Corps Volunteer, are all lending hands daily in order to help these girls help themselves.

Currently, we are teaching them skills in cooking, soap-making, and tie-dye and we are hoping to launch our computer training class this month. The ultimate goal is to train this group of girls in tailoring, catering, computer literacy, money management, and bookkeeping so that they have marketable and profitable skills with which to start their own businesses.  And hopefully, eventually, they will have financial freedoms that their mothers did not, by relying on their own skills and abilities rather than a limited natural resource. We want the young girls of Gambia’s capital city to be confident and capable, protecting and caring for their environment rather than damaging it through desperation or ignorance.

Below is a photograph of the girls learning to crochet handbags.

Training program topics include: basic stitching, hemming, crochet, foot-pedal sewing machine, soap making, packaging, product development and marketing, sales techniques, hygiene, table-setting, public speaking, computer skills, and life skills. Cooking classes include instruction in various delicious meals and snacks, including oyster pies, pancakes, cookies, banana fritters, oyster burgers, and much more. Our hope is to develop the girls’ production skills first, and then build their understanding of business, before giving them their own loans on terms similar to the microfinance program of which many of their mothers are involved. 

The Peace Corps Volunteer, Fern Aguda-Brown, has recently begun life skills classes with the girls once a week. The life skills curriculum is a comprehensive behavior change approach that concentrates on the development of skills needed for life such as communication, decision-making, assertiveness, self-esteem building, resisting peer pressure, relationship skills, and general health, including reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and STI’s. Being forced to drop out of school, these girls are placed in vulnerable positions and it is therefore necessary for them to have the confidence, self-awareness and knowledge to resist certain pressures and situations. 

Below are photographs of the girls during their recent “Values” lesson where they were asked to construct collages depicting their top three values. 

Structure of TRY Association

How is TRY structured?

Executive Director: Fatou Janha Mboob

Assistant Director: Fern Aguda-Brown, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Microfinance Specialist: Binta Gassama

Women’s Group President: Isatou Sambou

Executive Board Members:

Dawda Foday Saine: Executive Secretary, National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators (NAAFO)

Oreme E. Joiner: General Manager - Banking Operation, Trust Bank Limited

Maria P. H. Dacosta: Community Development Officer (Women’s Programme), Department of Community Development / Gambia Government

Anna Mbenga Cham: Senior Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Department / Gambia Government

Fama Njie: Discovery Tours

Ida Faal: Homemaker

Fatou Jobe: Principal Producer, The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS)

Advisors to the Executive Board:

Ousman Drammeh: Project Manager, Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (USAID/BaNafaa)

Babanding Kanyi: Oyster Program Facilitator, Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (USAID/BaNafaa)

Nfamara Drammeh: Photojournalist, Daily Observer News

Additionally, TRY works closely with the following groups, NGO’s, and government ministries:

World Wide Fund for Nature-West Africa Marine Ecoregion (WWF-WAMER)

Coastal Resources Center – University of Rhode Island (CRC-URI)

USAID/BaNafaa (Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries)

Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET)

Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC)

National Environmental Agency (NEA)

National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators

Department of Parks and Wildlife Management

Department of Fisheries

TRY Communities and Committee Presidents (i.e. the Local Governing Board)

1. Abuko: Anna Manga

2, 3, 4, 5. Bafulto, Galoya, Kembujeh, and Kubuneh: Jarra Kujabeh

6. Fajikunda: Odette Colley

7. Ibo Town: Haddy Jatta

8. Lamin: Mari Demba

9. Karmalloh: Marie Sambou

10. Kartong: Hawa Sanyang

11, 12. Kerewan and Mandinari: Fatou Badjie

13. Old Jeshwang: Bintu Colley

14. Wencho: Isatou Sambou

TRY is made up of fourteen communities from the greater Banjul area. Each of these communities has a committee, though some have combined due to their small sizes, as is demonstrated in the above list. Each committee consists of a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer and these positions face elections every two years. The Association uses these elections to encourage the women to think critically and to express their opinions, all in part of the democratic process. These committees ensure that every community is properly represented in any and all decisions made by TRY as a whole. 

These established committees were especially important in the co-management planning of the Tanbi National Park. There are many different interest parties involved in the daily activities and management of the Tanbi. The oyster and cockle harvesters have been disregarded for years. However, through TRY Association, these women were given a voice in this planning by being equally represented alongside the other partners.

Mangrove Reforestation 
TRY women line up, knee-deep in warm, muddy water, to plant mangrove seedlings in the community of Kamalloh, not far from the TRY Centre. TRY women planted approximately 1,000 mangroves on this day, ensuring a better future for their families as well as The Gambia as a whole.

Mangrove Reforestation 

TRY women line up, knee-deep in warm, muddy water, to plant mangrove seedlings in the community of Kamalloh, not far from the TRY Centre. TRY women planted approximately 1,000 mangroves on this day, ensuring a better future for their families as well as The Gambia as a whole.

Launching of the Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

The Oyster and Cockle Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park has been launched! Thank you so much to everyone who helped this become a possibility: USAID, The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, The Banafaa Sustainable Fisheries Project, Gambian National Environment Agency, The Department of Fisheries, The Department of Parks and Wildlife, The Department of Forestry, the many communities and village chiefs involved, The Government of The Gambia, the very brave and hardworking TRY women, and of course, the American people and their abundant generosity without which this would not have been possible! This is a ground-breaking moment in history, for TRY and for The Gambia, but most of all, for struggling women everywhere who are willing to do whatever they can not only to better their lives but also to protect their country’s natural resources.

Check us out on Gambia Radio by clicking the above link.

Microfinance Program

Microfinance

In December of 2010, NAACUG (National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions of The Gambia) came to the TRY Centre to instruct over 200 women on the fine details of small enterprise development and money management. This was no small task, considering many of these women have never put much thought into the selling of their wares, what to sell (if anything) during the oyster off-season, and especially had never known HOW to save money. They have been oyster sellers all their lives, and probably, so were their mothers. Traditional waters run deep. Perhaps they just did not know how to save money, or they didn’t believe that they could, or they had no safe place to keep it. Particularly for our members who are widowed mothers, who work away from their compounds all day, a safe place to store money is entirely unheard of.

In order to participate, each woman was required to give D300. If they so wished, each woman was then loaned D1,000 for investment into various small business enterprises. Some women, however, chose only to open a savings account without taking out any loans.

Our goal is for all participants to pay the D1,000 loan back within six months. So far, the project is an incredible success, and one woman (whose story you can read under the heading “one woman’s story”) has already saved over D11,000!

Previous to this exercise, many of these women had never had the ability to set aside their own money, and for some the concept of money as their “own” was quite foreign. We see women daily who simply cannot believe that the money in that little wooden box is theirs and theirs alone. We are teaching them to save money, but much more importantly, we are showing them how strong and capable they are. We hope that in five years, after the success of our microfinance program has taken off, each woman will be able to build her own decent house for her and her family, removing themselves from poverty and hopelessness.

At the end of the six months, we hope that all the loans will be repaid in full, and that our members will have saved enough money to last them safely through the off-season. This money, combined with our instruction and support in alternative livelihoods, will ensure their financial stability throughout the off-season.

Click Here to Donate to TRY

Check us out on globalgiving.org.

Cockle and Oyster Fishery Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Special Management Area, The Gambia

This co-management plan is specially prepared for the oyster and cockle harvesting areas within the Tanbi Wetlands National Park. It outlines the legal basis designating the park as a Special Management Area exclusively for use by member of the TRY Women’s Oyster Association.  

http://www.crc.uri.edu/download/Oyster_Plan_Jan_2012_508_Signatures.pdf 

TRY Association Celebrates the Handing over of the WASH Ba’Naafa Project

On the 16th of December 2013 the TRY Women’s `Association celebrated the opening of the Water Supply, Sanitary and Hygiene facilities (WASH) Ba’Naafa Project’s toilets in Karmalo and Jeshwang. The project has given women access to clean water and sanitary toilets which will greatly improve their health and the environment where they work. The TRY Women’s Association is very grateful to USAID and the University of Rhode Island (`URI) for their support on this project. 

 

The women at Karmalo with Karen from the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Anna Mbenga from the Department of Fisheries, and the co-ordinator of TRY, Fatou. 

TRY Association Receives Equator Prize 2012!

We are very happy to announce that TRY Association has recently been chosen as one of the 25 first-round winners of the Equator Prize 2012. Out of 800 competitive applicants from around the world, TRY stood out as one of the top community based organizations using local solutions to create a sustainable balance between people and their natural environments.

TRY will officially receive this award at the Equator Prize Award Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this June. The Equator Prize is under the UNDP Equator Initiative and this ceremony is part of the Initiative’s participation in the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). 

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. The Equator Initiative seeks to:

- Recognize the success of local and indigenous initiatives,

- Create opportunities and platforms to share knowledge and good practice,

- Inform policy to foster an enabling environment for local and indigenous   community action, and

- Develop the capacity of local and indigenous initiatives to scale-up their impact.

Check out all of the Equator Prize 2012 winners here:

http://equatorinitiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=684&Itemid=702

We are so proud of the work we have done and would like to thank everyone who has supported and assisted us along the way.  

Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

The purpose of this management plan is to ensure the sustainable management and development of the fishery and enhanced benefits to those involved in the market value chain. An additional aim is to establish a co-management plan for the nine oyster and cockle harvesting communities within the Tanbi National Park as a pilot and if successful, then gradually expand this co-management model to other harvesting areas in the country.

The development of this management plan is supported by the USAID funded Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (Ba-Nafaa). The Ba-Nafaa project is implemented by the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island and the World Wide Fund for Nature-West Africa Marine Ecoregion (WWF-WAMER), in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, and TRY Oyster Women’s Association.

The Tanbi Wetland National Park was designated as a RAMSAR site (Wetland of International Importance) on World Wetlands Day in 2007. The Tanbi, though it snakes through the urban area of The Gambia’s capital city, consists of 6000 hectares of mangroves. The Government of The Gambia supports the protection and responsible management of the area, specifically because of its high biodiversity, making it a valuable marine resource. It is important that we all work together to keep the ecosystem healthy, and that we do so by promoting sustainable livelihoods rather than using destructive means of harvesting our country’s limited natural resources.

The economic activities surrounding the collection, processing, and marketing of oysters and cockles within the Tanbi National Park are practiced predominantly by women operating in their individual family units. Prior to TRY’s inception in 2007, there was no form of organization, conflict resolution, or management within or between these communities of harvesters. There were no formal rules or regulations except the annual closure during the rainy season.

Participatoty Rapid Appraisals (PRAs) conducted in the cockle and oyster harvesting communities revealed significant concerns about over harvesting. Research shows that that women have to travel longer and farther to harvest, taking more time to gather their cockles and oysters, and are collecting juveniles in the process.  Conflicts between communities are emerging as harvesters start to recognize these realities and discuss, plan, and implement rules for harvesting (e.g. closed season or exclusive community use zones).

Oyster and cockle harvesters currently travel a distance seven times longer than that which they traveled thirty years ago. They also spend more than twice the amount of time harvesting, bringing in a third of what they did in the past. Unfortunately, due to both desperation and, perhaps, ignorance, many of the oyster women are harvesting juveniles: a practice that is both damaging to the oyster population and brings in a product that is useless in the global market. [Note: oysters, when they reach sexual maturity, are males. As they grow older and larger however, they become females.]

As harvesters start to consider these realities, many are thinking about their future livelihoods and discussing what they can do to avoid further degradation of this extremely important resource. Conflicts are arising, however, between different communities over the implementation of various harvesting rules. Participatory Rapid Appraisals (PRA’s) have shown that there is a large amount of concern in the various communities surrounding the issue of over-harvesting.

TRY’s main goal is to improve and sustain the livelihoods of its members; protecting the ecoystem and enforcing sustainable resource management is an imperative facet of this goal. It is our duty to facilitate conflict resolution between the oyster communities, in such a way that guarantees everyone an equal voice. Sustainable development requires intelligent regulations, and though we believe it is our responsibility as an organization to encourage, plan, and implement such rules, it is also our duty to foster ownership and confidence in our members. The co-management plan involves a number of groups, including government bodies, but we believe the creation of these rules should come from agreements made within the oyster women themselves.

Indeed, the co-management of the Tanbi involves working closely with its various stakeholders in order to discuss, plan, and implement measures to ensure the responsible management of our mangroves. Without proper regulations, the ecoystem of the Tanbi will no doubt suffer from human exploitation. We must therefore work together in order to protect it, for the ecosystem itself, and for the hundreds of livelihoods that depend on it.

TRY has already begun co-management planning processes in the oyster and cockle communities within the Tanbi National Park. Each community has its own committee, dedicated and respected leaders within each village. Through our aquaculture trainings and mangrove reforestation projects, to name just a few, TRY has educated its members on the significance of protecting and responsibly managing the ecosystem from which the harvesters benefit.

Now, we have begun the co-management process, discussing and planning with the many groups involved in the Tanbi, hoping to eventually establish legalized regulations, enforced and happily supported by all parties involved.

Under the Fisheries Act of 2007, The Government of The Gambia

“allows for the allocation of property rights for the purposes of community-based management…. Under Section 14 of the Fisheries Act 2007, the Tanbi National Park…is a marine protected area [and] can be designated as a special management area for the purpose of community-based co-management in the interest of conservation, management and sustainable utilization of fisheries resources. In addition, under Section 15 of the Fisheries Act 2007, the Minister of Fisheries may establish Community Fisheries Centres for purposes of community-based fisheries management. Although TRY Association does not constitute a Community Fisheries Center as is found at other coastal fishing communities, TRY Association is an officially registered organization with local committees in each of the nine villages that harvest oysters and cockles in the Tanbi National Park. The TRY Association therefore can be provided exclusive use rights and tasked with responsibilities for the management of the cockle and oyster resources within the Tanbi ecosystem.

So far, the oyster communities have deliberated on a long list of rules and regulations, they’ve made many forward-thinking agreements, though some disagreements remain. If you are interested in knowing the details regarding the specific regulations put in place, or the specific roles of each stakeholder party, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Regulations include, but are not limited to: no-harvest zones, community-specific harvest regions, frequency of harvesting, open access areas, dates for the opening and closing of harvest season, marketing and pricing requirements, professional ID cards, safe harvesting techniques (for the harvester and the mangrove), mangrove conservation projects, alternative livelihood development, and fines for the breaking of any and all regulations.

We are making drastic strides in the right direction: protecting our countries’ natural resources and improving the livelihoods of its citizens. Now, we are working with the involved government bodies to maintain these agreements, as well as with our members to ensure support of these efforts. TRY, along with the Department of fisheries, will continue to research and develop improved practices of oyster and cockle harvesting, particularly in relation to aquaculture. We continue to be devoted to the improvement of the oyster product, and await further advancement in the realm of raw oyster harvesting and distribution on the world market. We are constantly learning more about the oyster itself, and are now looking into funding and partnering with other organizations in order to learn more about possibly transplanting oysters from areas of high to low density.

Aquaculture within the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

Aquaculture


The benefits of aquaculture are undeniable, hence we here at TRY recognize the vast fruits to be had from investment in aquaculture training for our members. The government of The Gambia  has also long since realized aquaculture’s importance as having the potential to increase national fish production and at the same time reducing the country’s dependence on capture fisheries. Although the country’s focus so far has remained on the development of capture fisheries, the development of subsistence, small-scale and commercial aquaculture is a stated government policy.

“In the late 1980’s, the Department of Fisheries conducted research studies on the culture of the mangrove oyster of West Africa (Crassostrea tulipa) under a project funded by the Canadian International Development and Research Cooperation (IDRC). Results of the studies identified great commercial potential for the products but the market was not adequately identified. The rack system of culture employed by the research project was indicated to prove a more efficient method for the exploitation of oysters and is a more sustainable alternative than existing harvest methods which are destructive to the mangrove ecology. Policy makers want to encourage less destructive methods, increase oyster production as well as improve access to credit facilities for the producers.” (Source: Cockle and Oyster Management Plan for the Tanbi Special Management Area)

Prior to the establishment of TRY, ICAM (Integrated Coastal Area Management) funded a project in April of 2005, introducing oyster culture (the hanging method) to the nine communities within the Tanbi National Park. As part of the project, a group of oyster harvesters had the opportunity to travel on a study tour to Senegal, where they received training in oyster culture and improved processing techniques.

A few years later, Mr. Daniel Theisen, ex-Peace Corps Volunteer and current faculty of the University of Maryland was contracted by the Ba Nafaa project to conduct a two-week training project on oyster culture. TRY members from the nine communities within Tanbi National Park were clustered into six groups for training on the construction of lattice racks using bamboo poles ranging from 5-9 cm in diameter. These were arranged in the form of an inverted “V” and tied together with galvanized wire and rope, stringing and hanging of oyster shells onto the poles. Following the end of the training, a demonstration aquaculture rack was constructed in each community.  After this pilot, it was clear that oyster culture is helpful in both protecting the wild mature oysters as a source of spat and protecting the mangroves from damage during harvest time. In fact, the culture of oysters has great potential to improve the food security of the area and the social welfare of the oyster harvesters.

The communities agreed to work with the Department of Fisheries on the development of environmentally friendly oyster aquaculture in the Tanbi wetland.  We are currently finalizing the Memorandi of Understanding between TRY, The Government of The Gambia, The Ministry of Forestry and Environment, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management. With these agreements made, TRY Association will have exclusive rights to oyster farming in the Tanbi Wetland National Park. TRY and our community committees will work with the above parties to establish rules, if necessary, concerning designation of individual or group farming plots. These rules may include establishing locations to be used by specific communities exclusively for aquaculture set-ups.

Interested in Volunteering?

Here at TRY we have many opportunities for you to get involved. Interested in teaching basic business skills and money management to both the women and the girls? Have a background in environmental sustainability and want to work with the women at the landing and harvesting sites? Interested in assisting the office staff with grant writing? 

We prefer volunteers who are planning to stay in The Gambia for at least three months. For more information, email us at tryoysters@gmail.com or contact us by telephone at (220) 9911162 or (220) 7911162.

Fatou's Interview on Radio Cable

Listen to hear Fatou Jahna’s interview on a Spanish internet radio station in November 2011! She discusses her work and experience with TRY and specifically the collaboration between TRY and the Banesto Foundation. The Banesto Foundation, under its tourism initiative, has assisted TRY Association with the provision of a hefty loan and funds for the microfinance program.

Opening of the Oyster Season
We would like to announce the opening of the oyster season on March 1st! We are very happy to bring you SMOKED oysters, now available along the Banjul-Serekunda highway and at Serekunda Market (Mbarri Demba Sonko.)  Oysters can now be purchased by kilograms or by cups. Remember you can always come to the TRY Centre in Old Jeshwang to pick up clean and packaged oysters.
Official 2012 Oyster Prices
(D25/cup) – Smoked Oysters
(D20/cup) – Boiled Oysters
(D15/cup) – Smaller Oysters

Opening of the Oyster Season

We would like to announce the opening of the oyster season on March 1st! We are very happy to bring you SMOKED oysters, now available along the Banjul-Serekunda highway and at Serekunda Market (Mbarri Demba Sonko.)  Oysters can now be purchased by kilograms or by cups. Remember you can always come to the TRY Centre in Old Jeshwang to pick up clean and packaged oysters.

Official 2012 Oyster Prices

(D25/cup) – Smoked Oysters

(D20/cup) – Boiled Oysters

(D15/cup) – Smaller Oysters

Girls Skills Class

During the week, the Centre hosts a skills training class for the young daughters of the oyster harvesters who are no longer attending school due to lack of school fees. There are 20 girls total, all educated to at least the Grade 6 level. Haddy Camara, our volunteer teacher from the Women’s Bureau and the Department of Community Development, Fatou Mboob, the TRY Coordinator, and Fern Aguda-Brown, Peace Corps Volunteer, are all lending hands daily in order to help these girls help themselves.

Currently, we are teaching them skills in cooking, soap-making, and tie-dye and we are hoping to launch our computer training class this month. The ultimate goal is to train this group of girls in tailoring, catering, computer literacy, money management, and bookkeeping so that they have marketable and profitable skills with which to start their own businesses.  And hopefully, eventually, they will have financial freedoms that their mothers did not, by relying on their own skills and abilities rather than a limited natural resource. We want the young girls of Gambia’s capital city to be confident and capable, protecting and caring for their environment rather than damaging it through desperation or ignorance.

Below is a photograph of the girls learning to crochet handbags.

Training program topics include: basic stitching, hemming, crochet, foot-pedal sewing machine, soap making, packaging, product development and marketing, sales techniques, hygiene, table-setting, public speaking, computer skills, and life skills. Cooking classes include instruction in various delicious meals and snacks, including oyster pies, pancakes, cookies, banana fritters, oyster burgers, and much more. Our hope is to develop the girls’ production skills first, and then build their understanding of business, before giving them their own loans on terms similar to the microfinance program of which many of their mothers are involved. 

The Peace Corps Volunteer, Fern Aguda-Brown, has recently begun life skills classes with the girls once a week. The life skills curriculum is a comprehensive behavior change approach that concentrates on the development of skills needed for life such as communication, decision-making, assertiveness, self-esteem building, resisting peer pressure, relationship skills, and general health, including reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and STI’s. Being forced to drop out of school, these girls are placed in vulnerable positions and it is therefore necessary for them to have the confidence, self-awareness and knowledge to resist certain pressures and situations. 

Below are photographs of the girls during their recent “Values” lesson where they were asked to construct collages depicting their top three values. 

Structure of TRY Association

How is TRY structured?

Executive Director: Fatou Janha Mboob

Assistant Director: Fern Aguda-Brown, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Microfinance Specialist: Binta Gassama

Women’s Group President: Isatou Sambou

Executive Board Members:

Dawda Foday Saine: Executive Secretary, National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators (NAAFO)

Oreme E. Joiner: General Manager - Banking Operation, Trust Bank Limited

Maria P. H. Dacosta: Community Development Officer (Women’s Programme), Department of Community Development / Gambia Government

Anna Mbenga Cham: Senior Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Department / Gambia Government

Fama Njie: Discovery Tours

Ida Faal: Homemaker

Fatou Jobe: Principal Producer, The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS)

Advisors to the Executive Board:

Ousman Drammeh: Project Manager, Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (USAID/BaNafaa)

Babanding Kanyi: Oyster Program Facilitator, Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries Project (USAID/BaNafaa)

Nfamara Drammeh: Photojournalist, Daily Observer News

Additionally, TRY works closely with the following groups, NGO’s, and government ministries:

World Wide Fund for Nature-West Africa Marine Ecoregion (WWF-WAMER)

Coastal Resources Center – University of Rhode Island (CRC-URI)

USAID/BaNafaa (Gambia-Senegal Sustainable Fisheries)

Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET)

Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC)

National Environmental Agency (NEA)

National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators

Department of Parks and Wildlife Management

Department of Fisheries

TRY Communities and Committee Presidents (i.e. the Local Governing Board)

1. Abuko: Anna Manga

2, 3, 4, 5. Bafulto, Galoya, Kembujeh, and Kubuneh: Jarra Kujabeh

6. Fajikunda: Odette Colley

7. Ibo Town: Haddy Jatta

8. Lamin: Mari Demba

9. Karmalloh: Marie Sambou

10. Kartong: Hawa Sanyang

11, 12. Kerewan and Mandinari: Fatou Badjie

13. Old Jeshwang: Bintu Colley

14. Wencho: Isatou Sambou

TRY is made up of fourteen communities from the greater Banjul area. Each of these communities has a committee, though some have combined due to their small sizes, as is demonstrated in the above list. Each committee consists of a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer and these positions face elections every two years. The Association uses these elections to encourage the women to think critically and to express their opinions, all in part of the democratic process. These committees ensure that every community is properly represented in any and all decisions made by TRY as a whole. 

These established committees were especially important in the co-management planning of the Tanbi National Park. There are many different interest parties involved in the daily activities and management of the Tanbi. The oyster and cockle harvesters have been disregarded for years. However, through TRY Association, these women were given a voice in this planning by being equally represented alongside the other partners.

Mangrove Reforestation 
TRY women line up, knee-deep in warm, muddy water, to plant mangrove seedlings in the community of Kamalloh, not far from the TRY Centre. TRY women planted approximately 1,000 mangroves on this day, ensuring a better future for their families as well as The Gambia as a whole.

Mangrove Reforestation 

TRY women line up, knee-deep in warm, muddy water, to plant mangrove seedlings in the community of Kamalloh, not far from the TRY Centre. TRY women planted approximately 1,000 mangroves on this day, ensuring a better future for their families as well as The Gambia as a whole.

Launching of the Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park

The Oyster and Cockle Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park has been launched! Thank you so much to everyone who helped this become a possibility: USAID, The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, The Banafaa Sustainable Fisheries Project, Gambian National Environment Agency, The Department of Fisheries, The Department of Parks and Wildlife, The Department of Forestry, the many communities and village chiefs involved, The Government of The Gambia, the very brave and hardworking TRY women, and of course, the American people and their abundant generosity without which this would not have been possible! This is a ground-breaking moment in history, for TRY and for The Gambia, but most of all, for struggling women everywhere who are willing to do whatever they can not only to better their lives but also to protect their country’s natural resources.

Check us out on Gambia Radio by clicking the above link.

Microfinance Program

Microfinance

In December of 2010, NAACUG (National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions of The Gambia) came to the TRY Centre to instruct over 200 women on the fine details of small enterprise development and money management. This was no small task, considering many of these women have never put much thought into the selling of their wares, what to sell (if anything) during the oyster off-season, and especially had never known HOW to save money. They have been oyster sellers all their lives, and probably, so were their mothers. Traditional waters run deep. Perhaps they just did not know how to save money, or they didn’t believe that they could, or they had no safe place to keep it. Particularly for our members who are widowed mothers, who work away from their compounds all day, a safe place to store money is entirely unheard of.

In order to participate, each woman was required to give D300. If they so wished, each woman was then loaned D1,000 for investment into various small business enterprises. Some women, however, chose only to open a savings account without taking out any loans.

Our goal is for all participants to pay the D1,000 loan back within six months. So far, the project is an incredible success, and one woman (whose story you can read under the heading “one woman’s story”) has already saved over D11,000!

Previous to this exercise, many of these women had never had the ability to set aside their own money, and for some the concept of money as their “own” was quite foreign. We see women daily who simply cannot believe that the money in that little wooden box is theirs and theirs alone. We are teaching them to save money, but much more importantly, we are showing them how strong and capable they are. We hope that in five years, after the success of our microfinance program has taken off, each woman will be able to build her own decent house for her and her family, removing themselves from poverty and hopelessness.

At the end of the six months, we hope that all the loans will be repaid in full, and that our members will have saved enough money to last them safely through the off-season. This money, combined with our instruction and support in alternative livelihoods, will ensure their financial stability throughout the off-season.

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Cockle and Oyster Fishery Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Special Management Area, The Gambia
TRY Association Celebrates the Handing over of the WASH Ba’Naafa Project
TRY Association Receives Equator Prize 2012!
Co-Management Plan for the Tanbi Wetlands National Park
Aquaculture within the Tanbi Wetlands National Park
Interested in Volunteering?
Girls Skills Class
Structure of TRY Association
Microfinance Program

About:

TRY Oyster Women's Association is a community-based organization of over 500 female oyster harvesters in The Gambia, West Africa, working to raise their standard of living and improve and sustain the livelihoods of themselves and their families. TRY started in 2007 with 40 members in a single village. Now, we encompass 15 villages in and around the greater Banjul area.

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