Gambia Cotton Trail

The Gambia Cotton Trail

Gambia is of course famous for its birding, nature and its beaches. But did you know that thirty years back it was also famous for its cotton production? Enter The Gambia Cotton Trail !

A brief history about cotton in The Gambia

Back then cotton was grown, harvested and sold at a fixed price per ton. A change designed to encourage competitive pricing saw Gambia lose its place in the industry to places like Senegal. They could grow larger quantities at lower prices. As a result Gambia’s cotton production has diminished to almost nothing these days. A sad example of how GDP and profitability are valued higher than the well being and happiness of a country and its people.

How did Footsteps become involved in this project?

Well, Linda is my partner ( lucky old me ) and Daouda is a good friend and colleague from years back when he was General Manager at ASSET, now ASSERT (Association of Scale Enterprises in Responsible tourism)

Footsteps is now the base for the weaving and forms an important part of our cultural activities program

So where do we start in our quest to find Gambia’s cotton trail? 

Four years ago Linda Verasdal, a Norwegian travel & tour entrepreneur and Daouda Niang, Director General of The Gambia Tourism & Hospitality Institute began looking at why cotton growing was no longer a major industry.  Also if it were possible to rejuvenate the industry back to its former glory days.

They travelled to Basse where they discovered a village still growing a small crop of cotton each year, if the demand was there.

cotton village

Along the  river, further down the coast, the cotton is spun by the Women’s Initiative in Njau before being  taken to Brikama and Gunjur to be woven into finished products.

Here you visit the women who spin the cotton. And to follow the raw material all the way back to Footsteps in Gunjur where it is weaved and dyed into the finished fairly traded product.

ladies spinning cotton

Both linda and Daouda have a wealth of knowledge and experience in how to nurture Responsible Tourism. They formed their company ‘The Gambia Cotton Trail” as a cultural  based tourism product where travellers can visit and learn about this old industry. 

cotton trail logo

To do this involved finding someone with a knowledge of cotton weaving, someone who can also train others.

Meet Ousman, a young man who is one of just a few that possess the skills to weave cotton old school. He uses a traditional loom and also a European loom which gives more variety for cotton products.

Cotton

Meet Jankay, a young girl from Gunjur who is Ousman’s protege. Between them they are making a selection of hand made Gambian cotton products which linda and Daouda hope will capture the imagination of tourists and locals alike.

Jankay, weaving

Meet Lamin, who tailors the cotton into a finished product 

Lamin tailor

More than just cotton products

Their idea was not only the production of cotton products but also a sustainable business model for a journey of discovery from the South Kombo’s where Footsteps is situated to Basse in the east of Gambia.

dyed cotton
cotton

Are there workshops for weaving and natural dyeing?

Workshops for weaving and natural dyes are available at Footsteps

Can I buy these hand made products ?

All products are available from Footsteps during your stay. You can also buy the material only and have your own design made while you are at Footsteps.

How to find out more and book

This fascinating journey is only available through Linda’s company Ethical Travel Portal.

If you would like to know more and be a part of the rejuvenation of cultural and historical significance  email her direct or email me at Footsteps 😀.

Categories: Activities, News and The people in The Gambia.

Languages: English.

Comments

  1. Jill Spanton

    Earlier this year my husband Jeremy and I went on the first Cotton Trail Trip. We had visited Footsteps several times, and wanted to add in something showing us more of the country. We talked with Linda and David about it the previous year when it was being planned and refined.
    It didn’t disappoint.
    There was an early start with a lovely breakfast at sunrise over looking the river, with wildlife and lovely views. Then a long drive up river, it was a very long way, but it was interesting to see how the countryside changed as we went further inland. We got much more of a flavour of the local life, as few tourists come up this way.
    Georgetown is an old town, with much history, and wildlife. Out river trip foi d us chimps and hippos and a croc . Accommodation was simple but clean with a friendly enthusiastic owner. Food was lovely. We popped out before breakfast to the town, and everyone was friendly, though I did scare a baby when I smiled at her, as I was white, a rarity up here.
    The main trip to the cotton growing area was very interesting. The village is poor. No WiFi no mobile signal, and very little other than basic necessities. They need seed to grow their cotton crop yearly, and it’s often hard to get. The Cotton Trail this year has given them seed to grow organic cotton which will sell for a premium. We were followed by a band of children around the village as we were shown where they grow cotton, and their ONE well. If it dries up they hope the government sends a bowser.
    We ended out trip with one night in a place with amazing views of sunset, and lovely birds.
    My overall impression of our trip is amazement at the resilience of the local people. They seem to cope with a very basic life style and were willing to let us in to see.
    Go,if you can !!!

    • David (Founder)

      Thanks Jill and Jeremy for a lovely detailed review of your travels along the cotton trail. We hope to inspire others to venture further afield as you did and experience the real Gambia.

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