Thousands of volunteers drawn from all walks of life over the weekend descended on the various farms belonging to the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Prof. Alh. Dr. Yahya Jammeh Nasirul Deen Babili Mansa at his home village of Kanilai, West Coast Region.
The initiative was in response to Jammeh’s broad appeal for more hands to salvage the crops from the weeds. Last week, while launching the appeal on his farms, the farmer president said if more hands were not forthcoming; the weeds could overtake the crops. “I am appealing to Gambians to come and help. I want them to come and assist me to weed because beyond this week, it is going to be difficult for me; the grass has almost over taken the corn,” the president appealed through an interview he granted to reporters.
Since the appeal was launched, scores of volunteers have been trooping to Kanilai to help weed the farms.
The latest to respond were volunteers from the three regions of Lower, Central and Upper River; institutions, volunteers from Casamance, staff of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education; staff of the President’s Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP) as well as members of some associations.
The men and women volunteers were united in their actions, backed by a common goal to clear the weeds on farms belonging to a leader they described as exemplary and action-oriented.
On the farms at the outskirts of Kanilai were two formidable groups working. They were delegations from Upper and Lower River Regions, headed by their respective governors, who commanded together at least 500 men and women. They stressed that their mission was simply to help the Gambian people, as the proceeds from Jammeh’s farms are always ploughed back to the society.
Speaking to reporters on one of the farms, the Basic and Secondary Education minister, Fatou Lamin Faye, who was leading staff of her Ministry, spoke of their interventions in agricultural development in their own way. She said they are not just into education, but also into cultivation, having put up farms across the country.
President Jammeh’s leadership by example, according to the Basic and Secondary Education minister is the reason behind the overwhelming support his call continues to get from the people. “Even if the president didn’t make the call, this has now become part of my Ministry’s routine programme.
We come here every August because it is part of our programme now. We have institutionalised it and this year we have managed to bring Madarasa teachers as well as other teachers. This is a good endeavour as I said; we should not wait to be called to come and participate,” she said, referring to voluntary works on the president’s farms.
Minister Faye recalled the pronouncements made by the Gambian leader since 1994 for Gambians to take up farming for self-reliance, noting that the president didn’t stop there, but demonstrated it through actions. “He could have decided not to engage in farming, and we all know that it wouldn’t harm him anyhow, but he wanted to set an example for the people,” she indicated.
Linking independence to food self-sufficiency, the minister, who said they were on their ninth volunteer, work on Jammeh’s farms, noted: “We cannot call ourselves independent if we cannot feed ourselves.”
The people of Lower River Region (LRR) were at the centre of it all, and their governor, Salifu Puye, said they were responding to the president’s call for help. “Today’s activity is to respond to the president’s call. The main aim is to make sure that it is fulfilled and to show to the public that Vision 2016 can be attained,” he affirmed.
The National Assembly member for Jarra East, Hon. Ba-Faye Saidykhan; Chief Yaya Jarjusey; Rtd Captain Kambi; Musa Mendy of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and the National Assembly member for Kiang West, Hon. Minata Njie were all at hand to show solidarity.
Hon Saidykhan stressed that the people of his region were matchless in complementing the efforts of the Gambian leader in attaining food security. “I am very much impressed and we want to assure the president that Kiang West will continue to support him at all cost,” Hon. Minata Njie declared during an interview with reporters.
Governor Omar Sampo-Ceesay, who was caught in the middle of intense work, also said they were in Kanilai to give a helping hand to the president in response to his call. He said his region is already setting the pace back home in the crusade towards achieving food self-sufficiency. The governor indicated that they have cultivated many fields in the name of the president.
“The call is not for the president, it is for the people. We are doing it for ourselves, as you know that the benefits come back to us, the people, especially those of us in the rural areas. We the people of URR are willing and determined to continue to support the president on his farming endeavours,” he said.
Ceesay pledged their commitment to ensuring that the exercises both at the regional level and on the president’s farms become routine activities.
Protocol and Security
Also at hand in Kanilai were personnel of the presidential guards and protocol officers attached to the Office of the President. The group was quite aware of the need to help the president on his farming activities.
Lieutenant Colonel Sarjo Jarju, who led the group, said as soldiers they are also part of the community and that they see farming as a very important means to ensure food security. “Whatever the president does or gets from these farms is for our children,” he remarked. “The president sponsors people he doesn’t even know irrespective of their political affiliations. So as members of armed forces, I see no reason why we should not take part”.
Other speakers included Lieutenant Adama Jagne; Alhaji Essa Darboe, secretary general of AMANA; Fatou Drammeh, from the Protocol Unit, Office of the President; Aja Mam Fatou Sowe, a senior education officer at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education; Sheriff Bayo of Kiang West; Alhaji Julaba Kora, chief of Tumana and Nyima Badjie.
Meanwhile, the Gambian leader late Saturday evening inspected areas were volunteers had cleared of weed. The press crew also visited other farms belonging to the Gambian leader in Siffoe, Farato and Tintimbar in Kombo South, North and Foni Kansala Districts where a huge number of volunteers took part in weeding exercises.