Wednesday, 30 March 2011

POVERTY: Dependency On Imports Would Entrench Poverty in Africa

Hatab Fadera : 24 March 2011
The President of The Gambia has once again underscored the importance of agriculture in Africa's quest for economic salvation, warning that poverty would become entrenched in the continent if the citizens continue to bank or depend on imports.
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made this statement Tuesday afternoon at the Jama Hall of the Kairaba Beach Hotel while launching the US$24 million World Bank funded projects that are designed towards promoting government's job creation agenda and boosting the agriculture sector, the mainstay of the country's economy. The Gambian leader, who doubles as the minister of Agriculture stressed that the continent's salvation from the bondage of poverty is agriculture irrespective of what natural resources it is endowed with. He then reiterated his clarion call for all and sundry to go back to the land.

The president used the opportunity to commend the nation's womenfolk for their high sense of commitment towards national development, as well as their efforts in the poverty alleviation strides. He also condemned the attitude of the men folk in serving as back-sitters in the crusade against poverty eradication.
He said that the "attitude of the men in this country is counter-productive", while also observing that the nation's men folk have "overloaded" the women of The Gambia. He added: "We have one chronic disease in this country, and this disease is inimical to [our] socio-economic development.
There is nowhere in the religious book or in the constitution of The Gambia where it is stated that it is only Gambian women that should take part in agriculture. After all, agriculture used to be a male-dominated area and that is why there was no poverty." He also pointed out that the country cannot expect to eradicate poverty when men are only interested in going to offices, either to work or beg.
President Jammeh further observed that the Community Driven Development Project (CDDP) also a World Bank funded project, is being utilised mostly by the women, and queried the whereabouts of the nation's male folk. "Each time I talk, they say oh, he is castigating the men. I am not accusing you of anything, but I am telling you what you are doing and it is wrong," he stated. He stressed that the government can only create a conducive environment for the citizens to be able to eradicate poverty, but that they [government] will not be able to achieve this when people sit idly by and expect others to feed them, especially the male folk.
The Gambian said that it is unfortunate to note that if the women did not participate in all these projects that are in place, they [projects] are going to fail. He further noted that even the vegetable that is consumed in the country is being imported from Senegal, where it is grown by the men and women of that country. He added: "How do you expect poverty to be eradicated? There are two types of poverty in this country - poverty created by circumstances beyond one's control, and self-inflicted poverty, which is rampant in this country. How do you expect household poverty to be eradicated when the woman cooks, does the laundry, takes care of the children and at the same time goes to the vegetable garden to grow for food and clothing for the family when the men sit around and look for more wives."

Youths must change attitude
The Gambian leader equally challenged the youths of the country to take government's projects seriously, stressing that there is no government on earth that can provide job for every youth. While emphasising that he is not a "politician" but a servant of the people, the president deplored the attitude of the country's young people as very frustrating. "If you go around our markets, we have created the conducive environment by building the modern markets; but guess who you find there; the only Gambians you will find there are women and the rest are foreigners. And everyday, you want to go to Babylon," he lamented.
The Gambian leader opined that the amount of money that is spent to pay "those criminals [middlemen] to put you in [unsafe] boats so that you can be a breakfast for a shark or maybe a lunch for crocodile" could be used to invest in a lucrative venture to earn a living.
He again noted with dismay that they [foreigners] have dominated the country's facilities, such as fisheries facilities, amongst others, when young people of this country are sitting down all day long asking for a conducive environment. President Jammeh echoed the saying that "you can only take the horse to the pond, but you cannot force it to drink," implying that the government can only create the conducive environment by providing facilities, but cannot force the citizenry to make best use of them for their own good.
While calling for attitudinal change on the part of the young people, the Gambian leader observed that 98 per cent of the shops - retail and skill workshops such as carpentry and so on, belong to foreigners. "If you go to the fishing sector, where we spent more than US$28 million , the people you find there are foreigners. And the only Gambians you find there are our sisters and mothers struggling to carry fish to the shore. All what we are interested in is going to Babylon and becoming a semester," he further lamented.
President Jammeh concluded by asserting that attitudes must be changed to achieve the common goals of ending poverty in this country, expressing optimism that such is possible in view of the fact that the country is very small.

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