The impact of climate change in the Gambia with a specific focus on the town of Gunjur
Good evening everyone, my name is Masireh Touray and I am from Gunjur, the Gambia. I speak on behalf of my family members and friends currently living in the Gambia and from my personal experiences, also for Kombo Sallah Association (UK) and Gunjur Marlborough Link on the impact of climate change in the Gambia with a specific focus on the town of Gunjur, which has been linked to Marlborough in the UK for over 4 decades.
I am particularly glad to be able to join you this evening for this important meeting within the context of global climate change. Before heading ahead towards my speech I want to thank you for giving me this chance.
Let me start with some true incidents that the Gambia is suffering seriously from the impact of climate change.
1. An increasingly unpredictable rainy season is leading to a detrimental effect on food production in the country, especially rice (the staple diet); with a corresponding dependency on expensive and often unaffordable imported rice, whose importation is itself is contributing to climate change. The bulk of the rice consumed in The Gambia is mainly imported from Pakistan, Thailand and Brazil. When I was growing up everyone consumed rice harvests from the rice fields that is 10km away from compounds and the rice will serve the entire family whole year.
2. Changes to rains are causing both drought and flash flooding e.g. July 2022 in Gunjur heavy rains, causing significant damage to local homes and Jabang estate was also hit by flash flooding destroying valuables, fixtures and fittings.
3. An increase in the temperature of the Gambia, which is consistent with the findings of the UNDP (Sweeney, 2012 UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles; The Gambia)
4. Increased salination of the Gambia river with a corresponding reduction in fish stock, (a dramatic rise in the cost of fish) coastal erosion and concerns this is likely to have severe economic impact as the country relies on the seasonal tourist industry, which makes up 20-25% of The Gambia's GDP. As a result of gradual alteration in the natural environment related to coastal erosion and economic impact of climate change many young Gambian are become climate migrants/refuges both in Africa and Europe. Recently a video of a young Gambian who enter Italy through backway went viral, he is seriously ill and have being sleeping rough in Romefor two years, so sad.
5. Deforestation is likely to worsen snd exaggerated the impact of climate change on the country through the unsustainable use of firewood reducing the earth's carbon sinks and increased erosion of the top soil leading to reduced soil fertility.
6. As a Gunjurian I notice the most significant impact on fauna to be on livestock malnutrition and a positive impact on the mosquito population causing a reduction in the incidence of malaria. Additionally, the loss of fauna through climate change is observed to have a potential impact on the biodiversity of the country.
7. The community of Gunjur almost unanimously claimed that they believed climate change to be the will of God. This was not a view hold by more educated Gambians who were well aware of the scientific causes and responsibility by industrialised countries.
8. The Gambia is suffering from the impact of climate change despite their own minimal contribution to the atmosphere changes. The difficulties faced by the Gambia is tackling these problems include a lack of fund, accessibility and communication. It is clear that if the current rate of change continues the Gambia will only struggle more to react and even maintain health standards; most likely the development of the Gambia will be hampered.it is imperative that the UK (and other more developed countries) begin to take more positive steps to reduce their impact on the environment to protect less able countries such as the Gambia.
I hope that DFID recognises their responsibility as an industrialised country for the impact on poverty in sub Saharan Africa and use it in their efforts to encourage a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and a greater emphasis on and commitment to renewable energy sources in the UK.
I look forward to hearing in the months ahead how the discussions here have helped fashion the development for this sector that is of such fundamental importance to Gambia, and of course the wide world at large.