Hippos, The Bane of Gambian Rice Farmers

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When I go on trips for CRS, the people we help love telling me stories. But I can’t include all of them in the pieces I write. That’s what this blog is for.

Take the story Hawa Ba told me. She’s a rice farmer in The Gambia who is in her 70s. She’s got a story for me. A real doozy. Like the hunter talking about the buck he bagged, Hawa can spin a good yarn.

She points to a baobab tree in the distance. See that tree over there, she says, that’s where it happened. Some 40 years ago, that’s where she had the scare of her life.

It was 10 a.m. and she was babysitting two little girls. She was five months pregnant with child number four. They were out in the rice field where she was stirring a pot of rice porridge for lunch. Then she heard a rustling in the bushes.

“What’s that noise?” the girls asked. “That’s a horse or a cow,” Hawa said.

“Then,” she says, with a good dose of drama, “I saw the ears.”

It was a hippo. A big one.
This was starting to sound like one of those fishing stories. You know the kind, where the fish gets bigger as the years go by. But Hawa assured me this hippo was massive, as big as a horse.

A pregnant Gambian rice farmer has never run so fast. Hawa didn’t bother looking back to see if the hippo gave chase.

She can laugh about it now, but hippos destroying rice fields are a serious headache for Gambian rice farmers. There’s not much you can do to stop a hungry hippo. Farmers build mud berms where the hippos are known to enter the fields (hippos can’t jump). But a determined hippo, will find its way in.

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