ATA Holds First Carbon Neutral Congress with Help from Gambia is Good

20 May

On our second host country day, we were fortunate enough to visit the Gambia Is Good (GIG) Project on our way to the President’s village of Kanilai. Though the air was hot and the roads were rocky, delegates could not help but get excited about GIG project’s partnership with ATA, bringing great environmental benefits to The Gambia from the 35th Annual Congress.

One of the most exciting elements of this year’s Congress is that it is the very first 100% Carbon Neutral Congress. GIG and the Gambia Host Committee brought this initiative to ATA, which is thrilled to participate in this initiative and lend its support.

It is estimated that the whole congress including travel to and from The Gambia will produce 390 metric tons of CO2. CO2, a greenhouse gas, contributes to global warming and is a major factor in the adverse impacts of climate change that affect the world and especially Africa. I was recently told that Africa produces the least amount of greenhouse gases in the world, yet will be hardest hit by the continuing adverse effects of global climate change.

After walking around the GIG project and tasting cakes made entirely using solar energy and drinking natural juices, we participated in a tree planting ceremony. ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman and Board Members Doris Wooten and Omar Carrera helped plant the first tree of the ATA forest to demonstrate ATA’s commitment to this project and to sustainable initiatives in general. All ATA delegates got the chance to plant seedlings for plants that will be officially planted during the rainy season.

Chi Lo and I were lucky enough to speak with Marcel Hendrikx, General Manager of the Kombo Beach Hotel and Marc Van Maldegem, the hotel’s Operations Manager, about the precise ways in which the ATA Forest will continue to benefit the GIG community and The Gambia as a whole.

“The creation of the ATA Forest in the surrounding areas of the Abuko Nature Reserve and within the Tundum Community will result in 2,500 new trees including Cashew, Mahogany and Melina and 2,500 grass plants.” Marc Van Maldegem explained that “Today the seeds are being put into the ground here at the GIG Farmyard, and later, during the rainy season they will be put in various places around the community where they have their permanent space”

The ATA Congress Forest will offset the carbon footprint of the 35th Annual ATA Congress for 20 years. In addition, The ATA Forest will produce cashews for the community to utilize and sell, produce wood for furniture makers, produce ingredients for local tea production from Kinkleba trees and produce materials for handicrafts from Vetiver grass.

Hendrikx, explained that GIG has employed many community members who come to GIG to learn organic agricultural techniques to grow crops for sale. He was proud to tell us, “Whenever we talk about farming, we are talking about women. It is all women and it starts from a very young age”.

He then explained that most of the hotels in The Gambia buy their produce from GIG and GIG purchases the produce from the community members.

I am proud to say that through ATA’s partnership with GIG, one of the key themes of ATA’s 35th Annual Congress, sustainability, was addressed in a real, tangible and innovative way. The ATA Forest that will begin to grow during the upcoming rainy season will be a lasting reminder of ATA’s commitment to sustainability as well as its dedication and appreciation for The Gambia.

For more information about the carbon offset program, visit: www.atagambia2010.com.

Posted by Robyn Deutsch

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