Blazing trails in the Gambia
Young tour guides are showing visitors the mystic beauties of the Gambia while contributing to sustainable development
Isatou Foon is a trailblazer. If you were to ask the first young woman to train in community-based tourism in the Gambia what she would like to achieve in life, her reply would be ‘the unachievable’! Her confidence appears unshakable when she describes a great source of joy in her life.
‘We achieved something that has never been accomplished, which is having girls being tour guides!’ she says.
At just 23 years, Isatou is sure of a few things about herself. One of them is the love for her country, the Gambia. Her creativity and passion in inviting the world to experience the country’s undiscovered beauties have sparked a wish to steer young people toward new careers in sustainable and inclusive tourism.
The burgeoning tourism industry in the Gambia and a youth-empowerment campaign provided her with the opportunities she was looking for. With a background in computer science and communications, her passion for telling stories brought her closer to becoming a professional tour guide and youth trainer in community-based tourism.
Among other activities, Isatou and her community are all set to contribute to promoting the popular Ninki Nanka Trail. Available as day-long or week-long excursions, the trail offers adventurous, responsible river-based and overland trips.
Adventurers can experience the way of life in Fula, Mandinka, and Wolof villages while discovering diverse natural and cultural heritage along the River Gambia.
The trail offers a range of exciting activities such as birdwatching, community-based village tours, craft making, cooking lessons in local cuisines, West African history tours, river-based kayaking, bike tours and even spotting wildlife such as hippos to baboons.
Isatou’s training was part of the Tekki Fii campaign focussed on creating jobs for young people and women, with former trainees now holding jobs for themselves and contributing to their household and community income.
Tekki Fii – which means ‘Make It Here’ in Wolof – is a movement by Gambians, for Gambians, to equip young people with job-ready skills and entrepreneurship opportu-nities in a variety of sectors, ranging from the arts and agribusiness to tech and tourism and more. The goal is to empower young people to earn higher, stable incomes and create quality jobs for others.
With this programme, the business community, youth groups and development partners are working together to show young people – especially those most vulnerable to irregular migration – that they can lead happy, healthy and prosperous lives in their own country.
The Government of the Gambia coordinates this European Union-funded initiative with technical support from the International Trade Centre and its partners.
Isatou connects communities of youngsters to create awareness of how tourism can become an agent of sustainable development in the Gambia, leading the way for young women, in particular, to take part in the movement.
‘I will continue to inspire young women to take on such roles and lead communities by example,’ she says.