To Curtail Rural-urban Drifts, Irregular Migration
By Madi Njie
Representatives of several community-based organisations in Saloum District in the Central River Region North of the Gambia, solicit donor support to eradicate poverty in their communities, to address food insufficiency and insecurity, and as well to address the rural-urban migration of young people.
The community members of the two Saloum Districts in CRR North said they want to embark on meaningful agricultural production programmes that will enable them as farmers, to shift from rainfed Agriculture to year-round farming and entrepreneurship skills training and development activities which would create more employment opportunities for provincial youth, women and communities, and will further prevent young Gambians from venturing into the risky ‘backway’ journey to Europe, in search of greener pasture. The youth, women, and community members of Saloum said they want to train on organisational leadership capacities that can prepare them to complement national efforts towards eradicating poverty in their communities, with activities that can retain young people back home by creating employment opportunities for them in the rural areas through agricultural development programs. Leaders from the Saloum District Regional Development Community, Jimbala Kerr Malick Youth Farmers’ Cooperative Society, Jimbala Kerr Malick Women Group, and some community members in the District, highlighted their intentions of embarking on major agricultural and enterprising skills development projects that can eradicate poverty in their communities and improve socio-economic growth by ensuring food self-sufficiency and security.
According to them, they can achieve such objectives through leadership capacity building training through which they will be able to develop marketable comprehensive strategic plans and fundraising strategies to help them raise the required funds towards achieving their target objectives.
The leaders of these CBOs said they need an estimated amount of between D75,000 to D100,000 for the capacity-building training activities, and solicit donor support towards this endeavour.
There have been fears through international reports that The Gambia and other African countries will suffer a food crisis in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world’s major food chain supplier. However, African countries including The Gambia, should not wait to be spoon-fed by other nations, while having huge land areas that are under-exploited, together with the human resources to explore such opportunities, resulting in some Saloum communities coming together to address the looming threats posed by hunger and poverty, with this plan.
The Gambia remains one of the least developed countries with one of the lowest incomes and food deficits in the world. With a total land area of 10,689 square kilometers, the country extends to nearly 500 km inland with width variances of between 24 to 28 km. Subsistence, rural, and rain-fed agriculture is one of the major drivers of The Gambia’s economy and is also the main source of livelihood for the majority of the rural population (WFP).
Though agriculture is a major part of The Gambia’s economy, food insecurity is still an issue for the population. Crop outputs only supply about 50% of the population’s food needs due to low crop yields, soil infertility, insufficient farm implements, lack of technical know-how, and most importantly, lack of financial resources. Agriculture in The Gambia is challenged by poor infrastructure and high cost of production as compared to the poor prices of basic agricultural products, soaring prices of production inputs, and low private investment.
Declining agricultural production over the past years has resulted in many farmers abandoning farming to seek greener pastures in the urban settlements, causing the rural-urban drift, which has led to the under-development of provincial communities, and congestion in the urban areas with the high costs of living, increasing house rents and high unemployment rate as the resultant outcome. The trend has also led many young Gambians to venture into the risky irregular to Europe in search of greener pasture, and this is not only claiming the lives of many young Gambians in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert while trying to reach Spain or other European countries, but it is also depriving the country of her future human resource.
In response to this alarming situation, these communities plan to promote socio-economic growth in rural areas and Lower Saloum in particular, through agricultural production and entrepreneurship development activities. According to them, this will help address the prevailing rural-urban drift that is eroding the communities of their vital human resource among able-bodied youth (both women and men), by encouraging them to stay back home in their villages and engage in meaningful agriculture and enterprise development activities, by creating alternative income generating ventures in the provinces, contribute to food security and self-sufficiency through shifting from rainfed Agriculture to all-round farming activities; and to generally to improve the living conditions of all farmers.
BaboucarrNgachan, the Chairperson of the Saloum District Youth Development Community in his comments said his organisation is negotiating land in consultation with the District Chief of Lower Saloum and will need support for fencing and access water to farmlands, and to enable farming communities to shift from rainfed agriculture to year-round farming. He said they want to also create a District youth farm for multi-purpose agricultural production and development; establishment a multi-purpose Entrepreneurship Skills Training Centre for the District youth; upgrade the Kaur Youth Centre by constructing guest houses and fencing the Centre; establish community radio for the two Saloum Districts for awareness raising and development promotion; and to host the Lower Saloum Youth Festival scheduled for 2023.
Khadim Njie, the secretary general of Jimbala Kerr Malick Youth Farmers’ Cooperative Society, and MsAdamaJallow, president of the Jimbala Kerr Malick Women group, expressed similar remarks, and call for support to enable them to build the capacities of their members and to enable mobilise resources towards achieving these objectives
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