How To Defeat Diaspora Dependency

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Andy, thank you for pointing out this very important issue regarding the production of basic foods like rice, onions, or vegetables in The Gambia. The health of any country determines its future sustainability and productivity as far as Human Resources are concerned. The future of The Gambia lies on healthy population which can only be achieved through healthy food consumption and better public health system in the country. The idea of lifting tariffs on basic food items is indeed not a brilliant idea at the moment because it has serious consequences on the health and productivity of citizenry in the short and long term. The continuous importation of rice which is a staple food for country will lead to poor quality and lack of nutritious rice consumption in the country. Already most Gambians have been consuming less quality rice which are imported by foreign investors. Some of these foreign investors are only interested in maximising profit. The Gambia food safety and Quality Authority does not seem to be playing its proper roles in protecting of citizenry against imported and domestic toxic food consumption. Lack of the necessary technological, scientific and Human Resource capabilities in food science and regulations hamper this food regulatory body. The Gambian people are not educated about the nutritional values of the imported and domestically produced foods as evidenced by the food regulatory body’s failure to recommend or encourage the use of healthy nutrition labels. There is no standard guidelines or laws which ensures nutritional labeling and education to promote safe and proper food consumption across the country. Hence, Gambian people depend on few ill-trained and uneducated food industry regulatory staff who lack sufficient scientific knowledge in food science and regulations. For instance, most Gambians are not aware of different types of oil for consumption or what is the best type of oil which has nutritional values that support or help protect people against cancer or heart disease. Vegetable oil which is very common in The Gambia is not the best type of oil for daily food consumption while the olive oil or canola oil which have better nutritional values for consumption are mostly not available or unaffordable by average Gambian. So Gambian people continue to consume high quantities of vegetable oil which could result to heart disease or other chronic conditions. There is need to have public education on this subject across the country as well as food labeling about nutritional content of the foods people consume in the country. This can also be achieved through education at basic or higher levels.

The implications of foods has serious consequences on our people’s health and economy of our country. These imported foods do not usually meet the nutritional standard requirements that consumers demand in their home country and they are imported into our country to contribute to numerous health problems. Today, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers and other chronic diseases are common in The Gambia due to lack of local produce foods which have high or better nutritional values for healthy growth, development and protection of human body. The health care cost of these chronic diseases are skyrocketing which has serious impact on our economy and productivity. The importation of these basic food items discourages the population not to take farming as the most important productive base of our economy, which also contributes to high unemployment rain the country. High Unemployment is a serious economic problem which in turn lead​ to increase in poverty, crimes and dependency. Hence productivity of the economy is seriously impacted as far as production of agricultural foods are concerned. Food importation also discourages our people to prioritize home produce foods in their daily consumption. Psychologically, people have become dependent on bad foods which are imported without proper regulations.

The way forward to solve this serious health and economic problems is to encourage people to produce local food for consumption. The idea of “grow what you eat” is a good idea. However, the man [Yahya Jammeh] who came up with that idea used Gambian people for his selfish interest. I think the new government should quickly prioritize agriculture and give incentives to businesses and local citizens to produce more food for the country. They should give tax breaks to businesses that engage in agricultural productivity. Large scale commercial farming should be encouraged and businesses which bring technological innovations and equipment should also be given tax incentives for creating jobs. When Gambian people have jobs they should be able to feed themselves and get back their lost pride rather than depend on their struggling diaspora members. This will curtail diaspora remittance dependency. Food safety and quality authority should also come up with standard guidelines or laws which ensure food labeling and education to promote safe and proper food consumption in the country. We are in the 21st century, we must act fast to catch up with the rest of the world otherwise our country will be a dumping ground for unscrupulous foreign investors.




  1. Arona John

    Thanks brother Maxs for the brilliant article. You said it all. We cannot continue to rely heavily on imports to feed our population. Besides the high import bills, which have serious negative implications on exchange our continue imports of food stuff also have health implications. No wonder we are having fake foods rumor. Also a shift to agriculture will help to create employment for our youthful population. And we have the natural resources, all that we need is shift of our priorities. I am sharing our article on my Facebook wall. Regards!

    • Arona John , thank you for your compliment. It is very important to spread this vital information to our fellow citizens . Our main problem is lack of enough food due to lack of interest in agriculture which result to importation of basic foods into our country. Gambia is really bless with plenty sunlight and fertile land but we lack capacity to use our resources and brains to eradicate poverty , hunger and disease. The way we fought hard to get rid of Dictatorship is the same way our government and citizens should fight hard to eliminate hunger , poverty and disease in Gambia or Africa in general. 80 to 90 percent of remittances send to Gambia are used for food consumption while the citizenry or government continue to depend on diaspora to make a living. During military dictatorship, Yaya jammeh used Military to work on his farms . I think the ministry of defense should start National agriculture policy document which employs military to work on national farms across the country. There is no war or significant security threat in the country except the low level Jola rebellion in cassamance which can be contained if Gambia security and Senegal work together to get rid of this destructive forces . The rest of military should be engaged in agriculture production to feed the country. In advanced countries, military are highly involved in technological innovations, construction of bridges and other important projects. Right now I do not see any usefulness of the large military we have except to intimidate the population. Military Should be put to good use by engaging in agriculture production. Dictator jammeh used them well then, why not they work in agriculture now to improve the lives of everyone. Jammeh’s top military officers were herdsmen and farmers on his farm . The entire Army recruit spend the better part of their time on jammeh’s farm . The military of defense in partnership with agriculture should make sincere efforts to make good use of the army rather than the army sitting at their Barracks , only receiving salary. If we have ten to fifteen large farms across the country which use farming technology and irrigation, they should be able to produce enough food to feed the population. Let them make agriculture policy of food production as a national service just like it is a national service in some countries to join military. Every year , Gambia spend more than one billion dalasis on Rice importation while our military continue to sit idly by without doing anything to contribute to national development. Just think about one billion dalasis used evey year to import rice while we have plenty fertile flat land in the country. We need to use our brains to improve our lives .

  2. This is indeed a very brilliant, relevant and educative article. This is what the times demand and if you employ your skills to producing such brilliant works, you will find that “old demented” Bax will be your number one Talibeh.

    Let’s ask our government to produce a realistic National Blue Print to achieving FOOD SELF SUFFICIENCY within a set time period. No political soundbites, like “Eat what you grow; grow what you eat”, which are not based on concrete plans, translated into official government policy in Agriculture.

    Personally, I think banning the importation of agricultural produce was not a good idea, because it denies consumers the right of choice. There are people who have a taste for foreign products and their rights to access these should be guaranteed. What I would like to see government doing is to put a bit more tax on these imported commodities to make them more expensive than home grown, and where necessary, even control their quantity by placing quotations on them.

    The government, through such a policy, would earn extra revenue, guarantee the rights of consumers to choice and protect local producers. Commercial farming should be encouraged, but under strict control and guidelines, particularly in the use of chemicals and pesticides in the country. I would like to see Gambian diaspora getting involved in commercial farming, rather than foreign multinationals, but the lead in this area, must be taken by the government. It is the only agency that has the resources, the expertise and the duty to make food self sufficiency a reality.

    • Bax , I absolutely agree with your points about food self sufficiency and the role of the government to encourage private citizens and businesses to engage in commercial agriculture. I do want to see private citizens and private sector businesses lead in this efforts and become key players but first our government needs to use our military first in this endeavor to start the process. We have to change our way thinking and prioritize our needs so that our people should not be born in poverty and die in poverty. It is absolutely disheartening to see people malnourished in Africa because of inability to use our natural and Human Resources to the fullest .

  3. @ Max = You are indeed one of the brightest Gambians with smart proposal for agricultural production. This is exactly what we should do to develop agriculture and public health in The Gambia, what a brilliant ideas. I have been arguing about this on the Jolof online commentaries that Subsistence sustainable agriculture must be preserved, supported and developed to its potentials. If we don’t do this, not only are we going to lose the nutritional values of the food we consumed, but the farmers will eventually lost their lands to commercial agriculture interested only in production for exports and profits. Just see what The Green Revolution did in Asia, and they are currently in Africa (The Colonization of Agriculture in Africa), this is really scary. Just read Elenita C. Dano (2007) Unmasking the New Green Revolution in Africa: Motives, Players and Dynamics. Thank you for the article.

    • Peace , thank you for your compliment. We have to think strategically about what is sustainable and has the capacity to free Africans from hunger , disease and poverty , that can be achieved through meaningful agricultural productivity for food self sufficiency. Africans are truly bless with plenty human and natural resources but the problem is inability to utilize these resources due to lack of prioritization , lack of effective visionary leaders and inabilities to use our individual intellects for the common good. In other words we must blame ourselves for our backwardness, collective failures and dependency on foreign food importation. Just imagine , more than one billion dalasis is spend annually on importation of rice in the Gambia, half of that money could be used to effectively produce enough rice to feed the population when we have right equipment, technological innovations and right people leading this effort.

      • @ Max= I absolutely agree that some of these important basic food commodities we need can be and must be produced in the country more than we import them. We cannot completely rely on importation to feed the population, what if there is an international event where those food we need are not available or cannot reach our ports? This would be very scary. I agree that we should take all efforts to support, developed and sustained the very best of agricultural production in the country.

        Another huge problem why we cannot develop sustainable agriculture is the loans we always take from the international financial institutions (IMF and the World Bank). Do you know that agricultural production was doing well in Africa before the 1980s, and there was enough food to feed ourselves and even export the leftovers every year. The reason why this could not continue is because of the conditions attached to these loans we take. No support for domestic subsistence agriculture and we must continue to accept the Liberalized agricultural trading. Our markets are completely open and saturated with all kinds of junk foods. We must be able to produce far more good food than we import large quantities of bad expensive food in the country.

  4. Dormu Rewwum Gambia (aka Luntango Suun Gann Gi)

    Guys, STOP dreaming! If you don’t ban imports, the Western Agri Companies WILL NOT ALLOW YOU do develop your own agriculture. Simple use! Go to my “Dear OJ” piece at SAMBAGATE.COM and see what happened to Nigeria’s attempt to rely on Cassava Bread (Nigeria being the World’s No. 1 Cassava producer). The attempt​ was squashed.

    • @ Dormu = What do you mean we should stop dreaming? What do you mean if we don’t ban Imports the Western Agri companies will not allow us to develop our own agriculture? You refer to Nigeria but forgot to mention absolute corruption and the reluctant to diversify their economy.

      I don’t know what your argument is about?

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