Hundreds descend on Kanilai
Monday, August 11, 2008
Kanilai Farms, on Saturday, hosted hundreds of volunteers, mainly from the public service, who went to weed the president’s rice fields in response to his appeal.
The groups included staff of the Office of the President, the Department of State for Agriculture, the Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education, African Beauty and Modelling Agency, Jeck’s Enterprise, Gamtel/ Gamcel and the Taiwanese Embassy.
The volunteers were uniform in their reasons for assisting the president as, according to them, the farm is purely a Gambian property as the proceeds are ploughed back into society to help the poor and the needy.
As in the words of the secretary general, Office of the President and head of the Civil Service, Mrs Tenengba Jaiteh, for The Gambia, the future is very bright.
She said: "If what we are seeing here continues, really in the next few years, we shall achieve our goals."
Mrs Jaiteh was speaking in Kanilai, when the Daily Observer interrupted her as she patiently removed weed, from one of the president’s many rice fields.
Thousands of people - from some of the most senior civil servants to the ordinary citizen - had all converged on the president’s farm in his home village of Kanilai.
“The president’s farms are demonstration farms,” said Tenengba Jaiteh. She believes that President Jammeh leads by example, and that it is up to the ordinary man to emulate him. The fact that they were on the farms, she said, demonstrated their support of His Excellency, whom she described as the “ultimate example”. But she added that that did not mean that “our efforts should stop here”.
The SG remains strongly convinced that it is high time that everybody cultivates their individual farms. That would be the ultimate way to show their support for His Excellency’s ‘Operation Feed Yourself’.
Impressions being generated by the president’s crusade are excellent, as expressed by Mr Karamo Jaiteh, the managing director of the country’s National Roads Authority and Mr Ebrima Cham, the director general of GAMWORKS. Although they were in Kanilai in their personal capacities as a show of solidarity with the SG, they expressed their intention of making their own contribution at their respective institutions.
They both disclosed that considering the unflinching support their respective departments have been enjoying from the president in the implementation of their duties, they felt obliged to give him their support in return. After all “the benefit is for the entire nation”, as Mr Cham put it.
For the permanent secretary, Office of the President, Dr Njogu Bah, seeking food self-sufficiency is a way of contributing to world peace and security. He said that the president has been living by example both in the office and on the land. This, he believes, is a quality that is worth borrowing.
Responses to President Jammeh’s call go far beyond the political spectrum, as news in the media tend to portray. Even members of the modelling industries are keen to help make true the realisation of the president’s dream of self-reliance.
Mrs Adu Lette-Sey of Africa Beauty and Modelling Agency, headed a group to Kanilai, last Saturday.
For her and her group “the food crisis the whole world is talking about” was a motivating factor in their taking part in farming.
When asked how modelling and farming are linked, Mrs Sey was categorical in putting her points across. Nowadays, she said, agriculture has a link with everything.
"If you do not eat, you cannot get yourself to do anything," she said. She said that their intention was to visit Kanilai on a weekly basis. She went on to plead with the president for her team to be provided with a piece of land for cultivation. She argued that as far as she was concerned, proceeds from the president’s farms were meant for no specific people.
"Everybody benefits. Who knows whether it will go to my doorstep? Who knows whether I will buy it from the market? Even if I do not eat it, I will feel very happy to know that I am part of its production," she said.
Even the likes of Jeck Cham, a business tycoon, wouldn’t be left behind when it comes to helping the president. She headed a group of employees of Jeck’s Enterprises to answer to the president’s call. Jeck equally believes that food self-sufficiency can only be a reality if we change our attitude. This, she said, she was keen to propagate at her level as a private citizen.
Ambassador Richard Shih of Taiwan, accompanied by staff of his embassy and members of the Taiwanese Technical Mission, was in Kanilai to weed one of the president’s rice fields.
He told journalists that he is optimistic of a bumper harvest as the rainy season is progressing satisfactorily. He called for all hands to be on deck for the realisation of the president’s dream.
For Abdoulie Momodou Sallah, the secretary to the Cabinet, Office of the President, their presence in Kanilai is in response to last week’s appeal by President Jammeh for assistance. He is of the view that assisting the president means assisting oneself since the proceeds from the farm are ploughed back through the Jammeh Foundation for Peace (JFP).
He added that all what the president is yearning for is food self-sufficiency and Gambians should join in that crusade for the betterment of all and sundry.
Bakary Sonko, the director general of the National Agricultural Development Agency (NADA), who with personnel from all the sister departments within the Department of State for Agriculture, also weeded one of the president’s rice fields. He told Daily Observer their presence in Kanilai is part of NADA’s mandate to promote agriculture in the country.
He said that NADA is learning a lot from the president’s farming initiative, especially the element of linkages between the extension systems and the private sector in the development of agriculture. According to Sonko, his agency’s drive is to get the Gambian populace back to the land by enticing them to provide enough food at the household level.
He said the country has the potentials to attain food self-sufficiency in rice production within a four-year period depending on commitment and availability of resources as there is arable land, inputs and man-power, but he is of the conviction that Gambians need to diversify to other crops for real attainment of food self-sufficiency.
He agreed with President Jammeh’s assertion that independence is meaningless if “we are unable to provide enough food locally to feed the country’s populace”.
Author: By Pa Malick Faye