My Story
Yabouy Home Cooking



Ida Cham Njai

Ida is the founder of Yabouy Home Cooking, has spent the last 20 years working in the tourism industry and now offers Gambian cooking courses at her home in Brufut. This is her story...

I was born in the Gambia in 1964, a year before the country gained independence from Great Britain. My family was very poor and life was hard, especially after my father died when I was very young. We were five sisters, but my family could only afford two of us going to school – I was one of the lucky two.

In 1988 I graduated from West London College, UK, in Hotel, Tourism and Catering Management. When I returned home to the Gambia in 1989, I started working at the Senegambia Beach Hotel as Food and Beverage Coordinator before moving on to public relations, conferencing as well as being in charge of sales and marketing. As Sales and Marketing Manager I represented the Gambia at various tourism fairs and exhibitions all over the world. My profile is now used in many of the Gambian publicity materials. From 2006 to 2008, I worked as the General Manager of Maksutu Cultural Forest, both an ecology project and a place for people to come and learn about the local culture and people.

As Chair of the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism in the Gambia (2009-2010), I initiated women and community-based projects with international partners including the Banesto Cultural Foundation in Spain. My achievements as Chair include the following:

  • The training of over 1,000 members, including 600 women on entrepreneurship
  • Securing an interest-free revolving loan for over 700 women small business owners such as handicraft sellers, fruit sellers, hoteliers and food processors
  • The development of a curriculum on sustainable tourism with emphasis on women and entrepreneurship
  • Successfully served on various tourism committees (product development, tourism marketing and fundraising) set up by the Government of the Gambia

I was so inspired, after attending a course in Taiwan in 2008 on Community-based Tourism that I decided to resign from my job to start my own business. In September 2008 I started my home cooking business called Yabouy Home Cooking. ‘Yabouy’, means ‘mother’, a tribute to my mother, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 84. She was an inspiration for me, as she too had started her own business, initially selling peanuts at the local market. Through Yabouy Home Cooking, I showcase the cultural values of the Gambia as well as promote tourism in a sustainable manner. Since 2013 I have been commissioned by the Gambia Tourism Board to be conducting training programmes on Gambian cooking with the community-based tourism businesses in the Gambia.

I founded Yabouy Charity in 2013 with the aim to improve the lives of women in the surrounding communities through meaningful socio-economic and environmental initiatives, for example through micro-finance. Coming from humble beginnings, I feel it is only right that I help others when and where I can.

I was honoured to be an African Travel 100 Women Winner in 2017, an award given to the leaders, pioneers and innovators in tourism and travel in Africa.

I am blessed with 3 beautiful boys.

Copyright © 2018 Ida Cham. All Rights Reserved

Preserving my culture to promote sustainable tourism