JAG's Tour Guide Story
Licensed Local Tour Guides… from 2010 - Licences Granted May'14
Tourists, particularly bird watchers, traveled to Janjanbureh via various means. Sometimes they brought their own guides from the coast who did not necessarily know the history and culture of the island. Some would walk with their guests and merely read out the information boards provided some years ago with information by the now late Hon. Foday Manka. Little income for the community resulted from these visits. It was for this reason that we aimed at training local youths to become
Local Tour Guides
built upon the principles of Sustainable Tourism
December 2009: early discussions between the Late Hon. Foday Manka and Jane Smith.
February 2010: they developed ideas with Tony Johnson, also working in Janjanbureh
Summer 2010: training delivered to some 20+ youths from local area
February 2013: with new regulations demanded, Jane investigated official licensing through Gambian Tourism Board
December 2013: official training provided by ASSET and Gambia Tourism Board funded by Just Act Gambia
May 2014: Finalised as LICENSED LOCAL TOUR GUIDES
2014: Ebola affected tourism throughout West Africa but never in
The Gambia but thus few tourists
2016/17: Political unrest as tourists were evacuated after
President Jammeh refused to accept result of Presidential election funded
Initial training in Summer 2010. (Before the days of easy photographs via mobile phones!)
Having set up the charity in early 2010 the first aim was to train tour guides on the island.
Various aspects were covered
History and culture - the Late Hon. Foday Jibani Manka
Flora and Fauna - The Forestry Commission
Bird Guiding - Sol Faal
Tourism - Tony Johnson
Many local youths attended
This group formed the basis of Just Act NYC organisation and carried out many other and very varied activities on the island
Training for Licensed Tour Guides December 2013
By 2012 we became aware that they needed to receive further training in order to gain official licences. Initially the cost of this was put at £250….
The training was developed by ASSET (Recently renamed ASSERT) with particular support from Adama Bah and Daouda Niang and The Gambia Tourism Board and finally began after long time planning December 9th 2013. The cost was more than initially expected, covering travel, accommodation, sustenance for trainers for the week long training etc but was unexpectedly raised by the production of a photobooks produced by the founder Jane Smith. Several were trained but only nine reached the high standard demanded as guides, four good and five outstanding.
The story of the Photobooks is a fascinating one and can be read about and seen here
2014:I went to The Gambia hoping to go to the Gambia Tourism Board and pick up the licenses for the nine people selected as local tour guides after their training in December. (Five 'outstanding' and four 'good').
That was not possible due to some concerns about the training. We needed to meet with various people including the trainers to clarify those concerns. That meeting was delayed several times and only happened when Omar Jammeh and I finally decided to make our way to Janjanbureh two weeks after my arrival, having expect to go at least a week earlier. It turned out that the meeting occurred on that day as we made our long journey on the bus.
The training was approved but there were various requirements including a lot of paper work, some of which could only take place back in the capital Banjul.
Two of the guides already being there, the seven remaining guides and i made our way to Banjul on my last Sunday in a great team building event, traveling for many hours in a gelli gelli (only one puncture). We met up at Westfield on the Monday morning and carried out a lot of the required business in Banjul that day. We celebrated by visiting Dave Adam's compound in Wellingara and sharing a meal with his wife Anta.
I was flying out the next day and they came to the airport to see me off then went back to Banjul where they met with NAM, Hon Foday Manka, also the chairman of the Tourism and Culture Committee and Baba Ceesay, Director of NCAC (National Council for Arts and Culture). I think they were all impressed with the fact that as a group, the guides had decided to follow one of the aims of the charity and JUST ACT and be proactive, when perhaps it was not expected.
Further requirements have since become evident and with luck these have now been met, Omar once again travelling to and from Banjul from Janjanbureh to complete the paperwork! Everything should be submitted to GTB on Monday 17th March by ASSET.
Despite the disappointments along the way I had a wonderful experience, spending time with many new people as we waited to be summonsed and loved visiting Kartong Music Festival for the very first time, giving us many ideas for the future development of Janjanbureh!
Thank you all involved……
WE WILL GET THERE!!!!
In February 2014 Jane travelled to The Gambia expecting to pick up the licenses
In April 2104 Jane again returned thinking the licenses were finally granted.
A day was spent at the charity's banana plantation sensitising the community about our work.
May 2014 The progress was still exceptionally slow but finally licenses were granted to seven of the guides. One was rejected as he had not reached grade 12 in his education, a specification not made clear at the start, and the second, the famed Taka Titi (hardly a youth but included because of his exceptional knowledge and skills) as he could not produce his Grade 12 certificate of decades before.
This was past the end of the season and the year Ebola affected tourism throughout West Africa although never present in The Gambia so the guides had little activity. The work of Just Act NYC organisation continued however in many forms.
Tourism was also badly affected in 2016/17 Season due to political unrest.
Despite this a core of these guides (Omar Jammeh, Musa Foon, Muhammed Kebbeh) have offered very good services to independent travellers
but others have gone on to other jobs or indeed felt forced to take 'the back way'
The change of President finally coming to fruition in late January 2017 meant that outside agencies again returned to support the country and this enabled a major step forward for JUST ACT Tour Guide - to be renamed Janjanbureh Tour Guides