On July 18th 2008, Andy returned to The Gambia to be present at Penyem's Tree Planting Week. This is a huge initiative to regenerate the forests around the village. On one day 1500 saplings were collected from the nearby Brikama Forest and transported to the village. This is alot of trees but the target is actually 10000! The collection was hindered by the very heavy early rainfalls. On all of the seven days of the trip there were heavy rains each day. Apparently this is normal for late August - not July - it seems as we in the UK are not the only ones experiencing a change in climate.
With the saplings collected a second day was spent in and around the village planting them. This was a big community event with large groups of villagers coming to help. During this time the Little Northampton land was ploughed and 5 orange trees planted. Ploughing is done by hand using long handed spades. Most of the work is done by the youths of the village with the women following behind sowing millets seeds.
After the ploughing there was an informal ceremony where Andy was asked to plant the first of the saplings on behalf of Northampton. The crowd then walked around the forest infilling gaps with the young trees.
Eventually, a traditional lunch of rice and fish was served out in the bush at which point Andy made a presentation to the village of 150 mosquito nets which were donated by a company called Imerja. This was an unexpected but very welcome donation which helps towards a target of 1000 nets, one for each of the villagers.
This trip was different to the trips we usually take in April. The April trip is a combined holiday. This July visit in many respects saw the village and The Gambia in it's normal day to day state. One can wander freely in the forests, through the small towns and villages. It is only then - away from the trappings of the tourist season, do you realise how poor these people are.