Parents in Changai Toro want children to stay home, help with farming

Dec 4, 2021 11:39 AM | Article By: Jarra Cham

Changai Toro village in the Sami District, Central River Region

The residents of Changai Toro village in the Sami District, Central River Region north (CRR/n) have called for job opportunities in the rural areas to help retain their children to help them with their agricultural production.

Parents in the rural areas are greatly affected by youth rural-urban migration as most of their children migrate to urban centres in search of greener pastures; thus, hampering rural productivity, especially on agriculture and other income generating avenues.

This increases the poverty in the rural areas and affects the health of parents as they are left to do the laborious work all by themselves.

As Gambians vote in presidential elections on December 4, parents in Changai Toro in the Central River Region are demanding for each of the 6 presidential candidates to address the issue by ensuring that rural youth earn a decent living in rural areas and to help parents with agricultural activities.

Samba Wane, a farmer in the Central River Region whose son   left for the urban Gambia in search of greener pasture expressed concern over the rural-urban migration syndrome, especially during the rainy season.

Samba Wane, farmer in the Central River Region

He said the nightmare is affecting him and other farmers. “My son, who is supposed to assist me at the farm has gone to the Kombos to acquire life skills and earn a better living and left me alone with lots of work,” he said.

“I have very big farms such as groundnut, maize, and millet and I am working there alone. I was shocked when I heard he left for the urban areas.”

Rural Gambia does not offer access to jobs and other opportunities for the youth. Wane’s son, unable to earn a decent living in his village, sneaked out quietly one morning.

Wane narrated that “one day I went to his house to get him wake-up so that he would go to the farms, but upon my arrival, his friends told me he had left for the urban area. I was shocked and amazed.”

He said his son’s dream is to acquire skills and to earn better. Therefore, he said the next government should establish vocational institutes in the rural areas to ensure the youth acquire skills in their own regions. This would solve the rural-urban migration problem, he said. Wane now employs a labourer he pays D20, 000 for the rainy season.

On whether he would vote for a candidate who can solve their problem, Wane said he would not vote for any candidate who has no solutions to their problems.

“My candidate, if elected, would help the youths. I have listened to them (politicians) talk and I would not vote for anyone who has no solution to our problems. I am voting for my candidate because I’m hopeful that he has the solution to our problems," he said without disclosing his preferred choice.


Hardship and poverty

Ousman Sonko, a development specialist and a retired agriculturist, said rural-urban migration has increased the labour intensity of parents and lowered agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity in rural areas.

Ousman Sonko, a development specialist

He said the deplorable living conditions of parents due to the negative effects of the rural-urban drift has also increased hardship and poverty in provincial communities.

“Retention of rural youth will contribute to the development of the country, especially the rural areas. They will provide the needed support, social protection and security to their parents,” Sonko said.

Sonko, who is also the Vice Principal at the Rural Development Institute in Mansakonko, Lower River Region, said that the presence of youth in rural areas may further provide a justification and pressure for investment into the youth sector.

He said such investment can significantly contribute to rural development and by extension minimise pressure on urban infrastructure including housing, traffic and even crime rate.

Dado Jallow, a farmer and mother of five at Changai Toro village, saw her first son embark on irregular migration routes, and two other sons migrated to the Kombos in search of greener pastures.

Dado Jallow, farmer and mother of five at Changai Toro village

With no manpower on the farm, Jallow looks after a son in early grade and a little daughter. “I definitely want them to stay with me and work here, but there are no job opportunities here,” she said.

Like Wane, Jallow too wants the next government to provide more job opportunities in rural Gambia to minimize youth exodus. “If my sons are able to get employment here, I would be glad,” she said .

She also affirmed that she would not vote for any candidate who has no solution to the problems they are facing.

According to a case study published on “The Gneiss Blog Tumblr” in June 2015 on rural-urban migration in the Gambia, many people are forced to move to the urban areas due to the decline in investment in social services in the rural area and the rapidly declining rural population.

The findings of the study also stated that decentralisation of services to the rural areas would help to support people in the long term to improve the quality of life of the rural dwellers and help   them become self-sufficient. 


 What manifestoes do candidates offer?

The National People’s Party manifesto promised that an NPP-led government would encourage and support improved agricultural productivity and livestock production.

“As an NPP Government, we plan to unfold and implement a massive mechanisation plan. Farmers require more support, and we guarantee that this will be executed,” it stated.

The Turnaround Movement of the independent candidate Essa Mbye Faal states that their government would shift from subsistence farming to boost food production by establishing a thriving agricultural sector with potential to produce a large, diverse food basket to ensure food security and provide “sustainable employment in ten years”.

Mama Kandeh’s Gambia Democratic Congress promises “sound economic policies” in agriculture, tourism and fisheries development.

The United Democratic Party wants to tap into Gambia’s “huge untapped potentials in the agricultural sector”, which can improve the lives of the people, increase their food security, improve the nutritional standards for all ages, create employment for both rural and urban populations, and drives the national economy through linkages to other sectors.

The “Transformative Agenda 2021” of the PDOIS states that production-based welfare would be linked to consumption-based welfare enabling individual income and community income to rise proportionately to facilitate availability and affordability of food, to promote general welfare of both rural and urban dwellers.

While manifestoes for parties and candidates intend to tackle rural development issues that may help tackle rural-urban migration, they have not made it a top priority. The agricultural development plans are meaningless if there are no youth to work on the farms.


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