Gambian friend of Marlborough gives mango trade - and Fair Trade - a boostMangoes were high on the agenda at the Marlborough Fair Trade evening at St Peter's Church earlier this month - replacing the meeting cancelled due to the snow.
The main visiting speaker was Baii Jabang, director of the Trust Agency for Rural Development in Gunjur - Marlborough's longstanding partner NGO in The Gambia. He spoke about the importance of delivering on the potential of the mango business - as a response to the consequences of climate change. But also because of the devastation of the economy and consequent youth employment - caused by the decades long dictatorship, which was only relieved last year with the inauguration of President Barrow.
This and the return of The Gambia to The Commonwealth makes for an exciting moment in The Gambia’s history and an opportunity for development.
Ashley Brooks, the Manager at Marlborough's Tesco, talked about Fair Trade within Tesco. He is a great supporter of the Fair Trade initiative in Marlborough and the Thriving Through Venture programme.
Other speakers were Bill Yates a founder of Fair Trade who about spoke its origins and why it is still so important and Vivienne Kynaston, a member of the Wiltshire Fair Trade Group, explained how Fair Trade can make a difference and what standards the producers have to reach to become warranted Fair Trade producers.
A new link with Gunjur is being forged by the recently formed charity Thriving Through Venture (TTV). One of its founders, Dr Nick Maurice, explained how it was supporting young people to work both within their local communities and the partner community in Gunjur on collaborative projects that are purposeful and through which they learn new skills.
The meeting heard from some of TTV's young volunteers. They put questions to the panel. As did members of the audience from St John’s Academy, Marlborough who wanted to take part in further Fair Trade initiatives in their own community and school.
There has been progress on the attempts to encourage the export of mangoes from The Gambia. The visit of Baai Jabang provided opportunities to meet with St James' Place in Cirencester to discuss potential involvement and/or investment. He also met Ashley Brooks to discuss the potential for the supermarket to import Gambian mangoes. It is hoped the team will soon meet their chief fruit buyer.
The team are talking with the UK High Commissioner to The Gambia, Sharon Wardle, to explore how to bring together all the stakeholders in The Gambia - from producers to dryers of mangoes to exporters and the Ministries of Agriculture and Trade & Industry - to a conference later in the year when we can explore a strategy to get the trade in Gambian mangoes moving.
The 36 years of partnership between Marlborough and Gunjur are held in considerable respect in The Gambia and there is an opportunity to create jobs and wealth through the mango export trade - and so hopefully to prevent the irregular migration of young Gambian people to Europe.