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

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 specialistHe 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 villageWith 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.  

Gambia Election: No secret ballot for visually impaired voters

In The Gambia, electorates would queue and only one person is allowed at a time to enter the polling station to cast his or her vote secretly. This privacy ensures there is no intimidation or influence from any person when exercising the right to franchise.But citizens with visually impaired disability and with voting rights have ever been exempted from enjoying this same privacy since independence. They have to rely on third parties to vote on their behalf even though the law says secret ballot for all voters.Alpha Secka, a visually impaired person said such practice is discriminatory. “We are discriminated [against] everywhere,” he said. Alpha’s short response goes to show his frustration about the system and the plight of persons with visual impairment in the country, in general.Open to betrayalDuring elections, Alpha like other colleagues of his, have little choice but to accept to be accompanied by a trusted family member or friend to vote for a candidate of his choice. While there is trust in that person, Alpha said that he would have no knowledge whether the person has actually voted as he had authorized.“I trust my family member who serves as an escort to help me cast my vote without any two minds. I have the confidence he would vote where I want him to vote for me. But if he or she fails to cast my vote where I asked him or her to, it is left between the person and God,” he said.Alpha has expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement, describing the act as “political exclusion of visually impaired persons”. According to him, he could not enjoy his constitutionally guaranteed rights.The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia is unambiguous as Section 33 warns against discriminations during elections, including those living with any forms of disabilities. The Gambia has also ratified since July 2015 and domesticated the Convention of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities as the recently passed Persons with Disability Act 2021. It has also ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention the same year.Mechanisms to respect privacyAlpha demands that the authorities, including the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), put up mechanisms that would allow them to choose the candidate they want secretly without relying on a third party. “We want a system where everyone is included in everything,” he said.The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which highlighted several barriers to political participation of people with disabilities, underscores the equal rights of persons with disabilities to participate in political life.This situation has also left Muhammed Krubally, the Chairperson of the Gambia Federation of the Disabled (GFD) concerned. A Magistrate by profession, visually impaired himself, Krubally said the right to participate in elections are statutorily guaranteed by national and international legislations.However, he is concerned that the laws protecting them to take part in elections are disregarded in practice during elections in many ways, leaving their fundamental rights to be violated.“If you look at the position of the ballot boxes, for the blind to independently cast their votes is always absent,” he said.“You may sometimes choose somebody because you trust the person to go with you to the voting room to help you vote. Who knows [what happens] because you are totally blind? That person may not cast for the candidate you want to vote for. He may cast it for his or her candidate of choice.”  These challenges raised are expected to be discovered by the IEC through consultative meetings with all stakeholders ahead of elections. But Krubally is disappointed that the IEC never factored the involvement of his association as part of the larger Civil Society Organizations in the country to take part in the formation of policies and programmes.The GFD chairperson says the lack of privacy in the voting process is a rights violation because one could potentially be assisted by a stranger. He expected the IEC to make available to the blind the Braille ballots or enlarged print, magnifying material for easy reading.He also raises concerns over the lack of trained personnel at polling stations to deal with people with various disabilities.IEC’s weak alternativeThe electoral body’s communications officer, Pa Makan Khan, has admitted that the IEC is doing less for the people with disabilities, including the visually impaired persons in terms of privacy voting. But insisted that the Commission has given them priority to vote as they are not asked to join voting queues.On the issue of voting, Khan maintained that visually impaired persons can rely on their trusted family members to vote for the candidates of their choice. “…they may choose to come with an escort who may be a family member or a friend who helps them to cast their votes, and in doing so, those people must not disclose the choice of candidate of the person with disability because it’s a matter of trust and confidence and they must not break that trust,” he said. If that does not work, Khan’s alternative is that such people can still be guided by the polling team who have taken an oath of secrecy to accompany them to the compartment and the person votes for his choice.

How costly food commodities becomes a decider in the up-coming presidential race

The average Gambian survives from hand to mouth due to poor salaries and wages they receive at the end of every working month. This is not commensurable with the frustrating market realities as the price of the most basic food commodities keep rising exorbitantly and frequently. Affordability of such items have become one of the crucial factors to decide the upcoming presidential election to be held on December 4, just a few days away.Muhammad Camara, a father of six told MAJaC News that all the income he earns is spent on feeding. He said the high cost of feeding affects his allocations for other needed areas such as taking care of the health and education of his family.“Even taking my children to hospital when they are sick is a problem because my earnings stop at feeding my family.”The December election is timely for Muhammed, just like it is for other Gambians. He vowed to use his marble wisely for a candidate he believes would turn things around in the market. For him, candidates who share a practical agenda for an increased food production thereby reducing high dependency on expensive imported food items will get his vote.A housewife, Fatou Bojang, said the price hike of food items has created nutritional shortages, as most people could not afford the practice of a balanced diet anymore. According to her, D150 is no longer enough to buy a good fish from the market.“I might not even vote in this coming election because an empty bag cannot stand. I cannot go to the polls while I’m hungry. If this is not addressed, I might end up begging to feed my family because my husband is sick and I cannot even afford three square meals a day.”Fatou blamed the business people for the frequent increase in price of food items, stating that, it is now common to find an increment on a particular item just within a few days.  For Mariama Jatta, a consumer, she blamed the politicians for not prioritizing the market condition that is affecting the whole nation, rather, waging personal attacks against one another on political platforms. She described livelihoods as very difficult in the current situation.“Help me to get rich while we remain poor is what politicians are vying for but not to address our needs.”  Irish potato and other basic goods on sale at SereKunda marketA recent price finding conducted by this platform as of December 2 has shown that a bag of rice costs D1, 500, a bag of sugar is D1,700, a bag of onion is D650, locust beans (neteto) is now 10 dalasis, and a cube of jumbo is now D2.50.During the lockdown period necessitated by COVID-19 last year, the Ministry of Trade has issued a statement setting the prices of basic commodities, a decision which also threatened to penalize business people who are engaged in hoarding.However, the market is no longer adhering to such proclamations even when the government never came to lift the order.Mamad Salieu, stall owner at Serekunda market selling various foods, blamed the high cost of commodities on the prices they also bought at, as well as the expenditures they incur from transportation and taxes. He said their primary objective is to make profit.He has challenged the winner of the upcoming election to reduce the high taxes imposed on businesses which he believes would lead to ease in pricing of commodities, especially food items.What promises are candidates making about it?2021 Presidential Candidates,   PC: IEC ArchivesEssa Faal, an independent candidate, published his manifesto last month, outlining his plans to ensure food security in the country. He promised to create a thriving sector for the increased production of large and diversified food baskets that will also guarantee a sustainable employment in 10 years.  “Improved efficiency in food production and processing, and a huge reduction in food waste in the first 3 years of my government,” Faal's manifesto stated.Faal believes that Gambians will find a sustainable balance in market price of basic food items when such commodities are produced in the country rather than relying on importation.The United Democratic Party (UDP), the perceived main challenger of the incumbent, has also outlined their manifesto in a 5-point agenda. UDP has promised its commitment to eradicate child malnutrition, guarantee food security for the entire population by motivating farmers.“So, they will stay on the farm because if you look at the farming community is dwindling, we are having more people and fewer farmers. So where do you get food? You import it at the expense of a huge amount of foreign exchange,” Lamin Manneh, who is a leading figure in drafting of the party’s agenda, told The Standard.“We want to revert it. Import substitution, produce the food here and keep the foreign exchange, and at the end, sell part of that food and earn foreign exchange. That is the way forward for the Gambia,” Manneh added.Meanwhile, Halifa Sallah, the leader of the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) has promised to create cooperative sector that will accumulate cooperative finances to support family farms, create small scale processing of grains, nuts fruits and vegetables as part of the plan to eradicate poverty and creating balance in the market by also encouraging women producers and vendors.“They live in poverty, grow in poverty, age in poverty, and die in poverty. That is what we wish to end. How? By using your wealth. Twenty-three billion [dalasi] is your budget this coming year (2022). The ocean is here. Others are exploiting it,” he said.In the party’s transformative agenda, PDOIS also promised to increase the individual income and community income to rise proportionately to facilitate availability and affordability of food.One of the newest political parties contesting the election is the National Unity party (NUP) led by Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh, former Director General at the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). During his nomination, he told journalists that his first task, if elected president would be stabilizing the economy, the impact of which will regularize the market turbulent. “We need to rebalance our economy when we are elected. This is an immediately priority,” Jammeh said.Like other candidates, Jammeh’s manifesto has promised Gambians a better coordination and implementation of agricultural policies to ensure economic growth and reduce poverty in the country.The incumbent Adama Barrow, also the leader of the National People’s Party has consistently blamed the high cost of commodities on the global market system, which is suffering from the wreck of COVID-19. However, he has promised to provide support to local farmers to increase productivity of food items such as rice and other agricultural products.At a campaign meeting held in Jarrol, Foni, last week, Barrow promised to execute a plan worth of over $175 million investment plan in the field of Agriculture. According to him, “there is US$80 million plan for rice production, US$28 million for storage, US$27 million on rearing of goats and sheep and another additional US$40 million coming into the agriculture sector”.The Gambia Democratic Congress has provided in their manifesto that they will put a sound economic policy in Agriculture, Tourism and Fisheries Development.Expert view                                                                          Nyang Njie, Gambian economist, PC-TFNAn economist, Nyang Njie, said high cost of living is attributed to high inflation that makes people's purchasing power less. He said it could also be attributed to higher unemployment, which makes people not being able to make an income to feed themselves.To tackle the problem, Njie suggested that the government should reduce taxation imposed on imports like flour which is a buy-product of bread.“Most of the vegetables that Gambians eat are imported. So it's high time to grow these vegetables in the country, thereby making it cheaper and accessible to all Gambians,” he said. He said Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs should work closely with the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of  Agriculture to find ways and means of making food available and accessible, especially to the poor

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MAJaC Receives Students from Kotu SSS Press Club

  • by Admin
  • November 18, 2021

Members of Kotu Senior Secondary School Press Club earlier today visited the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication. The visit is to broaden their knowledge and understanding of journalism and to gather firsthand information about the profession to shape their career.Fatou Joof one of the students said that coming to MAJaC has motivated her more to take up journalism as a career. She said the facilities at MAJaC and some of the courses she has learnt are offered by the institution she believes will enhance her abilities more and prepare her for the future.Almameh Dumbuya, the Press Club Coordinator and Head of English Department at the school, said that it is important to introduce the students to the profession at this level to enable them make the right choices. He said the visit will impact the students’ careers as most of them are blindly joining the field without knowing much about it.

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Gambians must be mindful of hate speech

  • by Lenisa Gomez
  • November 17, 2021

Hate speech is often rife during elections. In the run up to first presidential elections in the post-dictatorial elections, Lenisa Gomez zoomed into the need to avoid such menace.

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People of Bakau vow to vote for a candidate to fix their drainage problems

  • by Alieu Ceesay
  • November 16, 2021

The people of Bakau say, they will only vote for a political party that has plans to fix the poor drainage facilities. click this link to listen:

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MAJaC Starts Film and Photography Course

  • by Admin
  • October 5, 2021

The Media Academy for Journalism and Communication –MAJaC, on Friday orients 20 participants for the Film and Photography training. The programme which is funded by the International Trade Centre –ITC through Youth Empowerment Project –YEP is meant to build the capacity of these youth for a productive career and boost their employability.Sang Mendy the Managing Director of MAJaC said the programme couldn’t have come at a better time than this, when The Gambia’s creative industry is doing well and needs people to help push the work to the world. He said that a lot of efforts have been put into the design of the programme curriculum and training content manual. “We are confident that at the end of your programme, you would make MAJaC, ITC and partners proud and that you would also be proud of yourselves for applying to the programme.” He added.“As a school that churns out students ready for the labor market, be rest assured that we will push you hard to be solution to the industry needs.” MD Mendy said.Jason Florio, one of the trainers urged all participants to be professional on the field. He said that as would be photographers and film makers, it is important to be always on time and professional.Fatoumatta Saidykhan, a participant said that attending her first lecture has informed her decision of joining the course. “It has made me look forward to attending more lectures and build my interest more in the course.” Saidykhan said talking about her first lecture experience.

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MAJaC signs MOU with PTCIJ

  • by Admin
  • October 1, 2021

The Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC) has on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) at a signing ceremony held at the Academys’ campus in Bakau. The objectives of the MoU are to enhance capacity building through training, collaboration on media, communication, and information research. It will also see the two institutions host a national election intervention programme beginning with 2021 general elections and as well explore areas such as data journalism as a component of media innovation and revenue generation. The partnership will help the two institutions to collaborate and use each other's expertise for the benefit of both institutions.Sang Mendy, the Managing Director of MAJaC said the academy will utilize the MoU to offer training on information disorder, fact-checking and the emerging new trends in the media.“MAJaC has very good journalism programmes, but as I speak, we have no programme on fact-checking and information disorder. Therefore, partnerships like this one will help build the capacity of our students in these areas”, he said. Caroline Anipah of PTCIJ said misinformation has become a problem in Africa which calls for more partnership between media organizations. “We want to build the capacity of Gambian journalists and also conduct research in The Gambia. We have implemented many programmes on good governance in other countries like Ghana and Nigeria. Our fact-checking training attracted MAJaC so we are looking forward to great things”, she said. PTCIJ is a non-governmental organization founded in 2014 to promote a truly independent media landscape that advances fundamental human rights, good governance and accountability in West Africa through investigative journalism, open data and technology.