In March 2008 the Fowhope Crag group held a public meeting about climate change in the Gambia. This was a great success. About 40 people crowded into the pavilion to hear Omar Njie & Gareth Williams tell us about the present position in the Gambia and the work being done by Concern Universal. Omar reminded us that we are already feeling the effects of climate change & that these can be devastating to fragile environments and economies. In the Gambia rainfall is sharply declining and this has decimated their main cash crop, peanuts. In many areas soil is suffering severe wind erosion. Meanwhile the sea level is visibly rising and causing significant coastal erosion. To confound the problem their capital town is low lying.
Gareth had recently visited the Gambia, and his brief had been to look at the potential for using Jatropha, a very drought resistant shrub to help stabilise soil. Some is already grown in Senegal and Kenya and it is widely grown in India. It has a good potential for helping stop the advance of the desert, it is a good hedging plant which animals do not find palatable and it improves soil quality. You can get a sense of the impact it has by comparing the two photos above. A further bonus is that it produces a crop of oil rich nuts, which though poisonous yield oil which can be used for lamps and the pulp from pressing the oil can produce methane for stoves. Furthermore, it is capable of being processed with simple equipment on a small scale.
As a group concerned mainly with the reduction of carbon footprints, we decided we would really like to do something to help. There was a strong desire for this expressed at the meeting on the 13th March and then again at the next CRAG meeting on the 3rd April. After a discussion about the ways in which we might do this, it was agreed that we would see the project as an experiment in carbon offsetting. Unlike some CRAG groups which impose fines for failing to meet carbon reduction targets we agreed that we would prefer to personally contribute towards the cost of initiating the planting of Jatropha on a voluntary basis. and this is what we did. Individual members and the group itself have made contributions to support the project, as have many of the people who bought trees for our tree planting project in November 2009.
You can download a copy of the first project report here. There's also a very interesting article on the Caplor Farm site about a visit to the project - you can find that here. You can download the latest report - May 2010 - here.