Our Tour Guide Story
Licensed Local Tour Guides… from 2010
It was seen that few in the community benefitted from the tourists who visited and that there were few income earning opportunities for the youths. Thus the first aim of Just Act Gambia was to train youths as local tour guides and to build it upon the principles of Sustainable Tourism. This began in Summer 2010 and was finalised in May 2014 ready for the season beginning later that year. Sadly it was the year Ebola affected tourism throughout West Africa. Tourism was also badly affected in 2016/7 by the political situation.
Initial training in Summer 2010
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
Training for Licensed Tour Guides late 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
In February 2014 Jane travelled to The Gambia expecting to pick up the licenses
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 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 in to other jobs or indeed felt forced to take 'the back way'