Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Farming in Foni After Ex-President Jammeh

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By Yaya A Bojang (Bojis)

Foni, a multi-ethnic settlement in the eastern part of the West Coast region, was once home to a Gambian president. From 1994 to 2016, the country’s President hailed from the tiny Foni village of Kanilai. During his presidency, Foni was distinct from any other region in the country on so many fronts.

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Gibob, a small village in the extreme sides of Foni, in the Bondali district, is one of the many Foni villages that have taken a different path in the post-Jammeh era. About 3km from the Transgambia Highway, the village has a dull population like many off-road villages in Foni. For many years, the village used to be known for its productivity, in the eras of both Jawara and Jammeh. This is because it harboured well-known traditionalists with great repetition in farming, and fishing, and also with strong spiritual backgrounds. The village used to be rich with a productive environment that included a thick forest of palm trees, which was a source of palm oil, palm kernel oil, and even palm wine and stems used for roofing.

Growing up in the village, farming was the only enterprise we knew. The job was to be either in the fields for the cultivation of crops or rearing of our domesticated animals. The dominant between the two was that of crop cultivation. For animals, it was a semi-intensive system on the side of goats and sheep and subsistence systems with cattle, especially on oxen, for drawing plough implements. This was a time when both young and elderly people (men and women) were always up to the groundnut farms or rice fields just to make sure the production never stopped. This was a time when ninety per cent of one’s feeding was self-produced at the farms by the families.

Like many other villages in the Foni, the coming of Yahya Jammeh played a pivotal role in boosting agricultural activities in the area because of his huge interest in Agriculture. His influence impacted the farming communities. The area was known for many activities, but farming was one major activity out of the many.

Many argued that the decline of farming began when many of the region’s youths started migrating to the Kombos. However, this is far from reality because, despite the urban migration, farming was considerably profitable for many villages in Foni. Besides, many ascribed the lack of interest in farming to the inexplicable seizure of tractors from farmers that were very useful in mechanised farming.

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Apparently, a strong change of attitude towards farming in Foni came after Jammeh. Many villages in Foni went helpless and effortless, and in fact, the farming tools and implements were awfully damaged by corrosion. A larger part of the region slowed down on farming. The mass migration of youths to the urban centres could have a role in it, considering such farming practices need human resources but a reflective observation of the trends of farming would contend that farming in Foni significantly dropped when Jammeh left for Equatorial Guinea. What is obvious is that many villages lost their appetite for farming after this experience.

One may imagine what may result in this swift change of attitude against farming. Farming was an activity heavily promoted by Jammeh. As a result, the people of Foni were able to reinforce themselves with the commitment shown by him at the time. He served as a morale booster, a motivator, and an exemplary farmer to them. This was the time farming was really practised – maybe not as in the era of our forefathers, but greatly performed way more than it’s done today.

The desertion of farming resulted in the burning of charcoal by many villagers in the Foni to earn a living – a menace I wish to immediately end if I have the means. Many forests were deforested due to the heavy dependence on charcoal production in replacement of farming.

Jammeh’s exile caught some people off guard, which resulted in much dull energy from some natives in Foni, and a moratorium on farming was the severest effect caused by Jammeh’s exile.

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Notwithstanding, the revival of the spirit of farming is gradually shaping form, and I hope that will continue to have a definite shape to regain our full definition of farmers.

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