All posts by Marnix

CTO of smilegambia

Recent projects: (2018)

Previous checks by our supporting medical doctors (MD) showed that the Buntung population is suffering from too monotonous food.  They live on a diet of cous (made from pearl millet), peanuts and their side products and some rice (occasionally as they have to buy this).  Buying is not the way we are used to as they barely have money.  They pay in bags of peanuts (same as they pay for school fees).

The kids are very small and not very well nourished.  Apart from that a lot of them suffer from lactose allergy and are not aware of it.  As one of our board members, Vicky Jacquemijn is a registered nurse (RN) she wanted to do something about this unilateral feeding by introducing vegetables.  There was a wish from the villagers to start a vegetable garden as in their neighboring village Lebba, but this was virtually impossible as the current water well was barely producing enough water to feed the people and the animals.  Apart from that, it was in very bad shape, even after a repair 3 years ago the walls were again starting to collapse.  Building materials especially concrete are not to our EU standards.  So before thinking of starting a vegetable garden we had to do something about the water supply.

In order to get better water it would be necessary to dig deeper to get real good fresh ground water that was filtered by lots of meters of savannah ground.  This is done by a socalled ‘borehole’, a thin but deep hole holding a tube with at the bottom a special tubular pump operated by electricity.

These boreholes are mostly digged by complex and expensive machinery, costing up to 10.000 Euros of digging expenses, especially so far inland where there is virtually no supply, so all has to come from the coastal area.  We asked for several price offers, but again this is not like in Europe.  Most offers are just a number, and you have to guess what you will get for that money and if it will be done properly.  Out of 5 requests, only 3 replied, but all were far out of budget.  We are not Doctors without Frontiers, we don’t drive expensive jeeps and we do not stay in expensive lodges 😊…

We looked on the Brikama market and we saw that the offers we got were as expected far exaggerated.  This often happens when white men ask for pricings.  We even went into some quarrel in the Gambia facebookgroup as we laughed at the prices other organizations paid for such boreholes.

Finally we got a far better offer from a guy called “Joof” that used to do borehole projects for Abdoul Gaye, the man we helped to start up his own lodge long time ago.  He had already realized several boreholes not using machines but local manpower.


The borehole project:

So after some back and forth phone calls (you have to be patient in Africa…) Abdoul gave some travel money to Joof to go and inspect the site in Buntung.  Joof returned with an offer that fitted our budget and included a complete key-to-the-door (read: water out of the tap) project, that included manual drilling, tubing, pump, wiring, solar panels.  Another local welder from Bintang was contacted to construct the tower to support the water tank.  The expected delivery time was around two weeks.  The original plan was to have the borehole finished during our Eastern Holiday stay but this was no longer possible.  We trusted Abdoul with the money and gave him the authority to manage the project, what he did very well.  Soon we were getting pictures of men drilling in the dark (too hot during daytime…) and after some 18 meter drilling and tube mounting there was water flowing.  The tower was mounted and painted yellow with the remaining paint from the poles of the garden fences, and the solar panel mounted next to it.

Water well MKII: at the end of the borehole we got a message from this “Joof”-guy telling he could fix the existing water well for a very acceptable amount of money.  While we expected only to get some concrete repairs in return for the cash, soon we saw a picture of a tap mounted next to this old well.  No idea how he did this but it was a major upgrade probably saving lots of effort from the women fetching water all day long.

Thanks Joof for a job well done…

The vegetable garden project:

Visiting Buntung on a yearly schedule the Smilegambia CEO and CFO brought some sponsor money to invest in the fences necessary for establishing a vegetable garden.  Free running goats and cows are likely to eat any piece of green within reach, so this fence is necessary.  In the past the locals used to make fences with bamboo sticks and stuff found nearby in nature, but there no longer is such supply.  A metal fence is  the best solution but out of reach due to the high cost.  So a few wealthy Europeans helped to pay for 5 rolls of 25meter aluminum fence and some 6m lengths of irons sticks to hold them.  The guy in Farefenni selling the metal was even so kind to cut them in to 2 meter pieces at no extra cost, with a handsaw in 30 degrees temperatures while we did our other shopping…   We added a few bags of cement at 10 euros each and some paint and loaded this all on our already overloaded Nissan patrol SmileGambia company car, setting off for Buntung.

The villagers could not believe what they saw, the expensive metal fences and poles.  The same evening we had a meeting about where to set up the vegetable garden.  I liked it to be close to Kerr Pedro so we could share a side using these fences and it would be convenient to have the water supply borehole in the middle of the garden so also close to Kerr Pedro.  The tank tower could be handy to use to hang up short wave antennas for the C5WP base station 😊.

The next early morning we were already digging holes for the poles.  I used my one and only leftover 6mm drill to make holes in the poles using the old battery powered drill machine of my mother whose built in battery gave up long time ago but still usable with a wire to one of our famous VABO-sponsored sealed lead-acid solar powered accus.  No fun working in temperatures reaching 50 degrees in the shadow in the afternoon.


Future projects:

During our last visit we found out that the battery we installed with the first solar system back 5 years ago is as good as dead.  It will be necessary to replace this one on the next visit.

Also the last 230V inverter died in these harsh conditions so there is no spare left.  So the next sponsor money will be used for buying solar batteries and inverters.

Apart from that we have an ongoing project to design street lights that are maintenance free and solar operated.  We tried some commercial designs but they all die within two years due to mechanical or heat issues.  The plan is to design in cooperation with the electronics department of a technical school in Geel, KOGEKA, a stand alone street light using state of the art LiPo energy sources and highly efficient LED lights.  This development will also need some funding.

We welcome your gifts: is a private small scale initiative with the sole purpose of helping the village of Buntung

Donations are more than welcome:

Keytrade Bank BIC: KEYTBEBB  IBAN BE56651151813288 is a private owned NGO – Summary

Smilegambia originates from a tourist holiday trip of a Belgian family, that was confronted with the limited resources of the Gambian people they visited during their trip.  At the end they asked the guide to bring them to a secluded village so they would be able to start up a limited aid.  That village was Buntung, 300 inhabitants, mostly kids, located 5 km south-east of Njau, in the Upper River region in central Gambia, on the north bank of the river.

When visiting for the first time they were confronted with a collapsing water well.  The family decided  to sponsor some money to fix this well, as it was the source of life for the village.  The next year they went back to inspect the works, and they installed a 100W loar panel system to charge the cellphones of the village.  Surrounding villages also came to charge their phones, thus creating a micro economy.

Cellphones are important as they provide the one and only link between families, when daughters are send away to marry in other villages.  They are very cheap and wanted.  But there is no electricity.

The next year a flatscreen TV with parabolic dish was bought and installed, to improve language skills and give the villagers a window view to the world, so they could see that if they study they can become something apart from farner, as currently the only income is from ground nuts and pearl millet, exchanged with other vilages for other items.

Another visit the family brought a European Medical doctor, that provided free healthcare.  Most villagers never visited a doctor in their entire life.

As a thank you the Chief of the village offered a piece of land, to built houses where philantropists could reside during their visits.  These 4 houses were built by the locals providing some extra income.  One building was used as a nursery school, and a local teacher was sponsored to teach basic English to the toddlers.

An amateur radio station was installed as well as some extra solar panels, and the money generated by this project promotion over radio was used to buy 10 solar powered radios.

Currently we are building a local community radio FM station, also solar powered to be installed on one of the cellphone towers providing music to these people too far away from coverage of public radio, only serving coastal touristic areas.

We hope to receive more gifts, both goods and valuables to continue this project.

The Njau health centre

During our stay in Buntu, we also made some visits to the local village of Njau. During one of these visits, we had the change to visit the health centre. While we were there, one of the people had a disease however, the health centre had ran out completely on their antibiotics. Luckily we had some with us and we gave it later to the ill one and at the end of out stay we donated the rest we had to the centre.

In the centre their was also a limited supply of materials to properly examine the patient and that is why we ask to hospitals or doctors who have eg. blood pressure meters,… that they do not use anymore to donate them to us so we can help the health centre there.

(to watch the images in the right orientation just click them.)

P1050129P1050133 - kopie P1050143 P1050148 P1050141

Purchase of goats for the village

Each year we go to the village, we hold a party there.                        However instead of buying a large quantity of meat, we decided it would be better to buy 2 small goats, wich we could slaughter then for more meat. On our second day we went to Wassu market for the purchase of the two goats. Here it was very visible that the Gambia is suffering from the ebola crisis, since Pedro was the only white person in the entire city of Wassu. This is why we should watch out with these press releases wich can damage a country economically for a long while. One last time, there is NO ebola in the gambiaP1070324

Providing TV access

During our stay in the village of buntung, we provided them with access to over 25 different TV channels, aiming at giving them a new and fun way to learn english and french.                                                               Of course, Africa being africa, there is always something broken, however, this time it was the national TV leaving them with other channels like BBC and Al Jazeera, but we are hoping the GRTS will have their things sorted out on their TV side.P1040488 P1040857

C5WP 2015 Operations

As our SmileGambia Drupal based website was hacked several times we decided to migrate to WordPress, however in the migration process all content was lost.  So this is a temporary website.

QSL-C5WP is a very small privately owned NGO initiative to improve the life of the about 300 inhabitants, mainly children, of a small village Buntu(ng) located 200 km from the atlantic coast in The Gambia.  Over the last 4 years we installed Solar panels, a water well, LED lights, a generator, a small nursery school and paid a local teacher to learn basic English to the kids that only speak local Pular language. This visit we will install a satellite dish with a  flat screen TV to improve the English in a fun way watching TV.  We are also bringing in 6 bags of 23 kg with clothes and school supplies, and additionally materials bought locally using money from our sponsors.

We have an amateur radio station installed in 1 of the 4 small cabins we constructed 2 years ago to accepts guests.  We ask 3 euros for a QSL card and all this money is used to buy food and goods for the village.

In case you always wanted to do a DX-pedition to a remote area…  The station and the cabins can be used by visitors free of charge, we only ask to bring helping goods to compensate for the cost of your stay.  The amateur radio station is available with a 5 band Spider Beam and a Kenwood TRC-80 all running on solar power.   We can assist obtaining a temporary callsign and license.  More info can be found on the “Kerr Pedro” .pdf folder here on this temporary website.


Please support us by asking your QSL.  Press the paypal button below and sponsor 3 Euros (or more if you want to really help…) and add your details (callsign, date and time of QSO, band and report) and we will send you a full colour QSL via airmail when we are back home in Belgium


Current operations by Pedro ON7WP/C5WP use an additional Kenwood TS480 running entirely on solar power, with a 20 Ah battery (sponsored by VABO Belgium) and a 40 Watts Chinese solar panel.  This provides about 3 hours of continuus 100W operations after dark.  I also brought a 40 meter delta loop to try to get out of this poor soil (savannah) using a palm tree as support.

There are only 2 permanently licenced HAM’s in the Gambia.  C5YK Andre is currently in Belgium so Pedro C5WP is the only HAM left in Gambia at the moment !

Major website changes


based on the fact that you are reading this, we have a message, at the moment, our website is being entirely remade in wordpress instead of Drupal. Due to this, certain pages are still needed to be added.

Sorry for the inconvenience.