Guidom Sabally’s high school education was interrupted because his family could no longer afford school fees. For many years he struggled to find work as an unskilled worker.

Now in his 40s, Mr. Sabally take advantage of the opportunity for free technical training, provided by a UN-led training program, in 2018; after completing the course, he got a job as an engineer, overseeing the construction of culverts—raised roads that allow his community to cross land inundated by floods, a consequence of climate change affecting many parts of the country.

He explained to UN News that with the money he has saved, he has been able to branch out and become a successful poultry farmer.

“I live with my family in the village of Brikamaba, where I was born, in the Central River Region of The Gambia. We are 14, my brothers and sisters, their children and my father.

Life is hard here. There are not enough jobs and when there is work, it is usually only available for a short period of time. So people here have a hard time feeding their families.

When I dropped out of high school I was sad. I knew that without education it would be very difficult for me to learn the skills I would need to become a professional and advance in life. For many years it was difficult for me to get a job.

Paving the way for a new career

In 2018, a friend of mine heard a radio advertisement about a free technical training course, run by the United Nations, that would give me construction skills. He told me about it and I applied.

It was not difficult for me to go back to school, even though I was 38 years old at the time. The teachers knew exactly how to support me. I learned many useful skills including bricklaying, carpentry and painting and decorating.

At the same time, I was also able to earn money by going to work with a UN project to build road drums. At first I was employed as a laborer, fetching gravel, moving stones, doing everything that was needed.

After I graduated, I was able to work on the next culvert project as a trained engineer, and today I lead a team of 50 workers.

“The women can do everything the men do”

We have 25 men and 25 women, as gender equality is an important part of the project. When it started, people in the community said women can’t do this job, but today they see the benefits!

In addition to the money they provide, women can now work with their husbands to improve their own homes, they can contribute to the decision-making process, planning and construction.

The women can do everything the men do, from fixing steel reinforcements to masonry. We must give them opportunities to show what they can do.

Adapt to the changing climate

Building culverts is very important because of the changing climate. The rain in Gambia has become more and more extreme and has caused the roads to erode. These culverts will allow the community to cross flooded areas during the rainy season.

This will make a big difference. Children will be able to go to school, we will have access to health care and businesses will be able to shop.

It will make everything easier because now, when it rains heavily, everyone has to take a much longer route to cross the water. These higher paths will change our lives.”

“This stomach is never full!”

The culvert construction projects are hard work, and I’m not getting any younger! Also, they will be phased out soon, so it is important to learn about entrepreneurship and business, so that you save some of the money you earn. My grandfather used to say “this stomach is never full”; you always have to think about how to get your next meal!

I decided to invest my earnings in starting a poultry farm, and it is working well for me. I started with 50 chickens and with the money I made selling eggs and chickens I was able to buy 100. It’s going well. I don’t even have to go to the market; people come to me and I sell very easily.

I plan to remodel the coop and add more lights so I can house more chickens. I would like to have around 600 and employ some of the unemployed youth from my community.

I want to pass on the knowledge I have learned, so that they can start their own businesses. I can’t do everything myself! More people need to understand the importance of saving and investing. Because even when you have millions, if you spend millions, you will end up with nothing.

I am very glad that I was able to gain the skills to work on the culvert project, as I am now a professional mason and a successful poultry farmer. I have been able to fund more technical education and get an advanced level diploma and send my children to school. My life is much better than it was before.”