The collective farm in Sabach Sanjal is the right direction that all Gambians who are interested in self sufficiency in food should go in for. This farm that is initiated by them and as far as the information reaching us the farm and the produce belongs to them. This is a product that they can always fall back at when the need arises. No barrier at all as far as access to the produce is concern since it will be in the safe hands of the members of the community themselves. Chief Mambiran Gaye of the district said the farm does not belong to any individual or political party; he was speaking to a local newspaper journalist, when the reporter visited the farm. The farm he stressed belongs to the people of Sabach Sanjal it is only the people of the district who will decide what to do with the produce.
Paramount Chief Alhagie Demba Sanyang implore that all districts will be encouraged to have what is call a district farm. He challenged all the youths to double their efforts in agriculture. He made these statements at the Kombo North district farm at Brufut. He made a similar statement at Sabach Sanjal district farm also. This may look like a new task for the Paramount Chief among other duties.
If all the districts emulate these particular districts, we may not right away be self sufficient in food but it will be an important step towards achieving it. This action looks quite different from the kind of the new farmers and farming system that we hear and see every other day on GRTS. Communities are seen on the farm of the President working very hard. Well if people spend most of their time helping some body else I do not know how much time they will have for themselves.
I for one hail the president’s call for a return to the land but do not agree for communities to be encouraged to spend their valuable time on some one else farm. This for me is discouraging people cultivating at a time, when they could yield more food for themselves than helping some one who is better off than them. If I were the president I will personally discourage such and encourage them to go and work on their own farms. Some of these people paraded on the TV screen are no true farmers, some of them do not own a piece of land for a back yard garden much more a farm, and they only have an agenda. So districts should emulate the district of Sabach Sanjal and that of kombo north.
A call back to the land is a clarion call, but farmers needed to be convinced and encouraged to go back to the land. One way farmers con be encouraged to go back to the land is not only by a mere call, it should go with incentives. Not monetary or kind sort of incentives. Farmers must be assured of a ready market for their produce. The farmers should also have tools to work with. This and other things must be in place for our farmers if we expect them to go back to the land. If not the sky will fall to the ground but the clarion call will not be heeded.
What is happening now is the reverse; farmers leave their lands for different things to do. Most youths find their way to the towns and cities for a change in their lives. They are no longer interested in wasting the whole rainy season on the land when in the end their produces have no market. So they prefer to come down from the villages just to do some odd jobs and save money that will see them to Europe or Babylon as most of them call it. In finding their way to Babylon most of them use illegal routes and many get their lives perished in the wild waters of the oceans something that is very bad for us.
So it is the policies that can send the people back to the land and not mere calls. We have to reflect on some years back to see if we can borrow anything from the past to make our youths and productive farmers tile the land. Not everything about the past is bad as most sycophants portrait.
In the early sixties (60s), coming to the eighties (80s) when this author himself was a young cooperative staff engaged in buying of the farmers produce, our farmers in those days are very keen on farming as it was one sure way of getting money. Once the rains began` youths where ever they are all return to the communities for farming, there was no need for one calling them to go back to the land. The market for the farmers produce was there, fertilizers given on time, subsistence loans available.
It was not only Gambian youths returning to the land, those who are rural youths and are in their 50s now will know what am talking about. We have youths coming from the Guinea Bissau and Conakry to Gambia for the farming season, because at the end of the season they get a good reward in terms of money for their produce. Farmers are no longer paid on time and that is what is discouraging them from going back to the land. No amount of call will get people back to the land. Policies must change to assure our farmers getting the reward of their produce on time.
This and the lack of seed nuts and fertilizers either being loaned to our farming communities or sold to them, and the fact that they cannot get the reward of their sweat is compelling them turn their backs to the land for alternatives. Unless policies are formulated to change such, there cannot be any amount of calls for people to go back to the land. Where are the mixed farming centers? Where are the Agricultural Assistants (AAs)? Where is the large number of agricultural staff to do the job? Where is the cooperative union to facilitate the marketing of farmers produce? These and other issues must be address in order to get us on the path of self food sufficiency.
Agriculture is declining a fact no Gambian can deny. If I may borrow some excerpts from the point newspapers July 8 2008, editorial which says and I quote "the reasons of the gradual decline of agriculture as a foreign exchange earner and as a major contributor to the economy lies primarily in the comparatively low level of productivity in the sector. What farmers used to enjoy in the 70s and 80s cannot be realized within the current political frame work. Before the farmers use to have access to qualitative seed varieties that were made readily available and distributed in a timely manner"
Are our farmers today getting seeds and fertilizers on time? No, it was only few days ago that the news was on the radio indicating the supply of fertilizer and seeds to some of our farming communities. The rains are gone I wonder what effective impact will that supply have on the final produce of our farming community? Unless our farmers are encouraged with such assistance reaching them on time, there is no way we can make a head way. In fact such will only go to make them poorer and poorer because they will only be indebted. Logics are they will not use the farming input into good use because such an inputs is coming late, as a result they will not be able to pay as required.