The 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 of cotton in The Gambia
Back then it was grown, harvested and sold at a fixed price per ton. A change designed to encourage competitive pricing saw The Gambia lose its place in the industry to places like Senegal. They could grow larger quantities at lower prices. As a result, Gambia’s 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 The Gambia’s cotton trail?
Four years ago Linda Veråsdal, 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 each year if the demand was there.
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. And to follow the raw material all the way back to Footsteps in Gunjur where it is woven and dyed into the finished fairly traded product.
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.
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.
Meet Jankay, a young girl from Gunjur, who is Ousman’s protégé. 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.
More than just cotton products
Linda and Daouda’s idea was not only to boost the production of cotton products but also to create a sustainable business model which invites visitors to the country to embark on a journey of discovery from the coastal part of The Gambia (where Footsteps is situated) to Basse in the east.
Are there workshops for weaving and natural dyeing?
Yes, 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 can I 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, please email Linda directly. 😀