Helen Scales

Helen Scales in mangroves flip

Into the oyster forest

My latest report for BBC World Service’s Outlook features the incredible women who gather oysters from the mangrove forests around the River Gambia. Oysters are a delicacy in West Africa and yet the women who harvest them are some of the poorest people living in one of the poorest countries in the world. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending time with the TRY Oyster Womens’ Association and their tireless founder Fatou Janha. TRY is a grassroots conservation group helping the women to improve their livelihoods while at the same time looking after the environment – they were recently awarded an  Equator Prize at the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

Fatou took me out into the mangroves to watch the women at work, paddling out in tiny tippy canoes and carefully chipping away oysters from the roots of the mangroves. I was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of these women. There I was, getting stuck fast in stinky, sucky mud when one of the ladies strides over, grabs me convincingly by the arm and leads me to safety – it turned out she was 6 months pregnant too.

I can also confirm that Gambian oysters are delicious. I wasn’t quite brave enough to eat one raw – although TRY are carrying out water quality tests to see if this is okay (so far so good, bacterial levels are well within acceptable limits). But I had all sorts of tasty Gambian dishes, oysters yassa, oyster spring rolls…

Have a listen to what I got up to here.

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