By Kebba Jeffang
Towards a journey of self-reliance, four young men in Abuko, who have ventured into horticulture to make life successful on home soil, are not the least happy with the incessant power supply provided by the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
The Ever-Green Garden located in eastern Abuko, is jointly owned by Assan Sanyang, George Jatta, Sang Mendy and Christopha Jatta.
Foroyaa met them at their garden on the 2nd January 2018, and talked to them on how their business is faring. According to one of them, they were all school dropped outs due to financial constraints to complete their education; that this however, was not meant to be the end of their journey to be successful in this world, even without embarking on a perilous ‘back way’ journey to Europe.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Assan Sanyang said they embarked on gardening last year after they came to terms with how they should do it.
“We all dropped out of school due to financial difficulties and engaged in building construction as labourers. We were not able to raise reasonable amount of money from the work we were doing as labourers. Realizing that we are young people who have reached a stage to help our families, we decided to sit and discuss how to come together and do this work,” he said.
Sanyang, age 27, said they have started realizing positive results in this new venture after just one year; that they have invested D5, 000 as a start-up capital to buy cucumber and tomato seeds for planting.
“We harvested the cucumber in 45 days while the tomato took us 3 months before the harvest. We earned approximately D50, 000 from the harvest of these two vegetables. So far we have harvested for two seasons,” he said.
However, he said the business was struck by disaster when they attended a weeklong training in Jenoi on agribusiness, because the people they left behind couldn’t give proper care to the garden. He described this as ‘a big setback.’ He said they are getting back on track after the loss, with a new plan that will ensure that different varieties of vegetables are grown. He said they are also working on making sure that harvest becomes an all-year round process.
“Our tomato will soon ripe and as you can see, we have pepper, onion, salad and sweet pepper too. It really benefited us already because you will see that this is where we get our breakfast. Also, anytime we harvest we make sure each of us is given something to address our personal problems while the huge part is saved in the bank. The women in this community also come here to buy vegetables for cooking because it is expensive at the market,” Sanyang said.
He said with this outcome, they have no plan of embarking on the perilous ‘back way’ journey to Europe; that they are thinking of how to acquire their own land and continue with their gardening.
“What we are earning here is keeping us good. So we are not obsessed with Europe. If we have our main challenges addressed, you cannot compare this venture to salary earners,” he said.
When asked what their main challenges are, he said they are faced with constraints such as lack of land as the owner of the current land could demand it from them at any time.
“Water is one of the issues we are grappling with here because the borehole cannot supply water without electricity. As I speak, we are sitting when we should be watering our plants, but we couldn’t do so because electricity is not available. That means the plants will stay without water till in the evening when electricity is expected,” he said.
The young man added that their vegetables such as tomatoes, garden eggs, pepper etc. have reached a point where they need adequate supply of water to help them grow faster, with quality. According to him, electricity operates the borehole after which water could be available.
“We are strongly appealing to NAWEC for a steady supply of electricity because our gardens cannot have water without electricity,” he said.
Sanyang said they are also working on modalities to meet with the agriculture department responsible for horticulture for consideration as youth farmers.
He disclosed that their target is to creating employment for their fellow youth in the near future especially if they could acquire their own land.
“The better the garden becomes, the more employment it will create for the youth because we have been receiving several young people who have been coming to seek employment from us. We cannot give them work because the environment is small and water supply is inconsistent,” he said.
He said agriculture can provide abundant employment for Gambian youth if the government could address the challenges attached to it.
George Jatta also 27, said he dropped out of school at grade 9 because he could not continue to pay his school fees after losing both parents; that he was motivated to join this venture after being compelled by the effects of unemployment.
‘‘I realized that agriculture could address my problem and this is why I did not hesitate to agree with my colleagues to start gardening. We are gaining something to manage our lives. We are thinking of being accorded with more assistance from Government, NGOs and others but not going to Europe through the perilous ‘back way’ journey,” he emphatically put it to this reporter.
He appealed to Government for the provision of learning opportunities in relation to horticulture, for better gains.
“We are aiming high to have a big land so that we can employ our friends and brothers because they are always here seeking for employment,” he said.