Can Gambia Flip the Tide to Save Its Shrinking Seashores?


This story initially appeared in The Guardian and is a part of the Local weather Desk collaboration.

When Saikou Demba was a younger man beginning out within the hospitality enterprise, he opened a bit of resort on the Gambian coast known as the Leybato and ran a seaside bar on the large expanse of golden sand. The resort continues to be there, a relaxed spot the place visitors can lie in hammocks beneath swaying palm timber and stroll alongside shell-studded pathways. However the seaside bar just isn’t. At excessive tide, Demba reckons it will be about 5 or 6 meters into the ocean.

“The primary yr the tide got here in excessive, but it surely was OK,” he says. “The second yr, the tide got here in excessive, but it surely was OK. The third yr, I got here down in the future and the bar wasn’t there—half of it went into the ocean.”

That was within the Nineteen Eighties, earlier than most individuals had even heard of the greenhouse impact.

However to Demba, 71, and lots of others like him, it was apparent even then that issues had been altering. The ocean was coming in additional and additional yearly, and the shoreline, little by little, was crumbling.

Now, the Leybato has misplaced not solely its seaside bar however, at excessive tide, its seaside: The ocean comes proper as much as the underside of the terrace and splashes excessive. The erosion of the shoreline is clearly seen within the cracked paving stones and uncovered roots of the coconut timber. The ocean grass that used to carpet the ocean flooring has gone.

“These grasses had been defending the ocean, however there aren’t any extra now,” says Demba. “I additionally used to see turtles, massive turtles. Now, none. We’re in a really unhappy state of affairs.”

All alongside the 50-mile shoreline of Gambia, Africa’s smallest mainland nation, motels and guesthouses are dealing with related pressures. And in a growing nation the place tourism makes up about 20 p.c of GDP and employs tens of hundreds of individuals, it couldn’t be extra vital that they stand up to them.

“We’ve already realized the lesson from Covid-19. Tourism could be very, essential” for the nation, says Alpha Saine, entrance workplace supervisor of the Kairaba Resort, one of many two most luxurious within the nation.

After a chronic absence in the course of the pandemic, European vacationers are beginning to return to Gambia, even when the numbers seem considerably down. Saine hopes Covid quickly “turns into historical past.”

The menace posed to the business by the local weather disaster, nonetheless, is extra formidable in the long run, and nobody seems to have discovered an answer that works for all.

On the seashores of the Kairaba and Senegambia Accommodations, the beating coronary heart of Gambia’s “smiling coast” tourism business, a barrier of rocks has been laid that runs for a number of hundred meters alongside the shoreline, stopping the waves from encroaching too far. When the tide is low, the seaside continues to be massive—and within the age of Covid, fairly empty—however at excessive tide it’s a slender strip of sand.

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