The woes a woman farmer in CRR – fighting for survival

Sarjo Camara-Singateh

In this edition of Women And Development we will bring you the challenges that a rural woman faces in farming and livelihood. Borry Sambou is my interviewee, she hails from Kuntaur, Central River Region North.

Borry Sambou  engages in rice cultivation. She said that her experience is similar to women in an urban setting. She referred to experiences relating to feeding the family, househould chores, ‘community resonsibilities’, reproductive role as mothers, caring for the children, striving to make ends meet and keeping the family together, among others.

According to her, they rely on rice cultivation to make a living. As at now the price of refined home grown rice is D5.00 per cup. “I take my paddy rice to the milling machine and I use the refined rice to feed my family.” According to her, the rains have been heavier than expected and they fear that the rice they cultivated during dry season have ripen and if they do not harvest it on time it could be washed away by rain water.

Notwithstanding the commonality of women she acknowledged their differences according to the availability of resourses and the environment they live in. She indicated that they lack facility to spread their harvested rice for drying and for this reason when there is no bumper harvest they rely on spreading their harvested rice on the wharf to dry. She explained that if they leave their harvested rice in the waters it would perish. 

Borry  pointed out that due to storage difficulties they have no choice but to expedite the sale and transportation of their produce to the urban area using boats or other vessels that dock on the wharf for that purpose. She said that this process becomes more significant whenever there is bumper harvest.

She was asked to  shed light on issues of concern  to women in her region. She stated that farming in general is a nightmare in her community, simply because  they do make money out of it, they are living from hand to mouth.

Concerning girls’ education, she said it is very key in the life of a woman. “I can tell you something about that because I have toiled to educate my daughters. The mothers of all my grand children sitting next to me are educated. I used to advise them to make sure that they take their education seriously. Had I been to school my present condition would not be like this today, struggling in the rice field. In our days womens’ education was seen as a waste of time. All what they advocated for was for a girl child to be clean, cook well and know how to talk to elders and respect her husband and his family. This has culturally reduced women to servitude and to be submissive to their husbands.  This outlook has tamed many women culturally and publicly, it also reduces the vigour of women vying for public positions.

As we get nearer to presidential polls which will determine who will lead this country she was asked for an assessment from the point of view of a woman farmer.

It is important for each and every one to know the reason we are going to vote. My concern is that if opposition parties do not come together as one that will hinder the efforts of the ordinary women.

She was further asked for her view on a woman vying for a political seat. She supported the view that women can contest elections for the seat of president, national assembly or councillor, noting that women should not be taking back seat all the time. “We should have one brave woman who will be willing to lead the country.”

Continuing her assessment of the situation in the country, Borry stated that poverty has and is still engulfing many people in the country and prices are skyroketting.  She added that the rural people depend on their produce but that they are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. “After drying this rice I will take it to the machine and use the refined rice to feed my family. If anything is difficult it is feeding because it is continuous, it does not stop at one go,” she remarked.

She noted that the reason farmers decry the high prices of basic commodities is that the low price of rice does not match the prices of imported commodities such as condiments or additatives that are not grown by them. This, she said, makes it difficult for them to eat nutritiously.

Isatou was working together with Borry, she could be seen holding a long rake spreading  her paddy  rice. Borry was accompanied by her two grand children waiting for her to winnow the paddy rice.