The Gambia chapter of Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) on Thursday launched the first ever Rural Youth Award meant to recognize the efforts of enterprising youth in rural Gambia, at a ceremony held at the offices of the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (Nema) in Abuko.

The Award categories are: Young Farmer of the Year; Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Young Business Idea of the Year; Young Emerging Business of the Year; Young Information Technology Enterprise of the Year; Young Commercial Farmer of the Year; Young Agribusiness of the Year; Young Social Media Campaigner of the Year; Best Business Innovation of the Year and Young Business Partner of the Year.

Scheduled to take place at the Agricultural Rural Farmers Training Centre in Jenoi, Lower River Region (LRR) on the 29th April 2017, the theme of the Award is ‘WE NEED YOUNG PEOPLE IN RURAL AREAS: We need them to produce, process and market the food that will feed the world’.

The overall aim of RYA2017 is to identify, promote and elevate successful young women and men who, despite all odds, are channeling their creativity, energies and passion to contribute in making a change their communities and societies, a statement from the Chapter says.

The event is being organised with the financial and logistical support of the International Trade Centre (ITC) through the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) The Gambia, European Union Trust Fund for Africa, the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (Nema), and National Youth Council (NYC).

Speaking at the launch, Bakary EK Jammeh, head of Knowledge Management and Communication at NEMA on behalf of the project director, gave a summary of the project saying it is a seven year project funded by IFAD is meant to assist women and youths.

According to him, they operate under three components notably lowland and upland development, business development with focus on Agriculture and Project facilitation respectively.

“On Component one and two, the youths of the country benefits most. We are now constructing nine vegetable gardens, many of which are meant for youths. We are also about to construct 22 other vegetable gardens for the youths” he said.

Mr Jammeh however noted that their only challenge is that youths are not forthcoming in taking up ownership citing rural-urban drift and the perilous Libya journey as major contribution.

He implored on GYIN to make sure that in next year’s event, they make emphasis on agricultural production, vegetable gardening and processing as priority. He reminded Gambia youths to venture into agriculture business saying it is one of the fastest ways to gain income and sure food security.

He thanked GYIN for the initiative and assured of NEMA’s continued collaboration.

Mamadou Edrisa Njie, executive director of GYIN Gambia says the body aims to create and support an enabling environment under which young people in the country can act on their own behalf and on their own terms, and to facilitate exchange of experiences, learning and networking for young entrepreneurs.

According to him, GYIN Gambia is a nominated member of the project steering committee for NEMA and has collaborated with the project for the implementation of youth related activities such as trainings and small-scale vegetable garden production.

“GYIN Gambia Chapter implemented the Entrepreneurship component of the NEMA Project by training 50 rural youth in Lower River Region and North Bank Region on Entrepreneurship. Earlier in 2016, GYIN Gambia Chapter successfully organized an international event on Youth Agribusiness, Leadership and Entrepreneurship on innovation (YALESI) in Dakar, Senegal which brought together more than 400 delegates worldwide” Njie said.

He added that GYIN Gambia has also trained a total number of 172 rural youth (boys and girls) and has implemented a series of training programmes for rural youth organization on Leadership Skills and Qualities, Organisational Management, Entrepreneurship, Climate Change, Disaster Risk Reduction.

Mr Njie finally insisted that the experience gained by GYIN Gambia in project design and implementation from the NEMA project is ample justification that GYIN has what it takes to deliver the proposed project.

The idea for the first ever Rural Youth Award stemmed from recommendations from that National Youth Summer Camp held in Jenoi, LRR, ACCORDING TO Mariam Saine, financial controller and member of the Award committee who was deputizing the chair of RYA Committee.

According to her, one of the eleven point-recommendations was to organize a Rural Youth Award – celebrating Youth in Entrepreneurship, Agric-business and Information Technology.

She observed that rural youth are generally known to be low income earners, adding, recognition of successful youth in agri-business, entrepreneurship and information technology could serve as a model for the majority of others who are yet to enter into start-up ventures and open up doors for access to finance.

“The inclusion of rural youth in decision making and celebrating their success is a priority for GYIN Gambia. We believe that it is absolutely necessary to recognize the efforts of young rural entrepreneurs especially in agri-business and entrepreneurship to further motivate the youth and to ensure their continental fight to end poverty and improve rural household livelihood” she noted.

Alhagie M Sarr, Board member of GYIN Board of Directors said the importance of recognizing and rewarding the efforts of rural youth cannot be over emphasized. He said productive youth play a vital role in the socio economic development of any nation.

He advised youths to embrace the opportunities avail to them at home and make good use of it; not to allow themselves to be left behind in nation building and stop risking their lives in the perilous journey in search of greener pastures whiles they can make everything green at home.

Alhagie Jarjue, Program Manager of the National Youth Council saluted GYIN for the foresight in organizing the first ever Rural Youth Award in The Gambia. He assured that Council will continue to support GYIN and urged the media to give enough publicity about the event to ensure its success.

Baboucarr Kebbeh, a member of the organizing committee of the Rural Youth Award chaired the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Global Youth Innovation Network Gambia Chapter (GYIN Gambia) is a national youth network operating across the country and has been implementing a number of youth projects in the country.