Manneh, the CEO of a leading cashew nut exporting company in The Gambia is
using his successes in entrepreneurship to set up a scheme that would motivate
the country’s ‘back-way’ returnees to engage in cashew production and export.
“We have an agreement through which we help educate you, provide you with start-up seeds and after planting, we harvest together and market it and agree on a commission basis,” he said as his staff and team of volunteers distribute aid packages to a group of 168 returnees from Libya over the weekend.
Manneh returned home five years ago after living in Europe for 33 years. Manneh returned to establish a cashew nut exporting firm, Mand M. Trading. Additionally, Mr. Manneh owns a hotel that employs tens of Gambians in the tourism sector. Being a former migrant in Europe himself, Manneh understands better the real struggle undocumented migrants endure in the West. Today, as a leading exporter of cashew nuts to Vietnam and India, he is using his story, through a charity he established not long, to inspire young people that they could indeed make it in The Gambia without having to risk their lives to reach Europe.
“If you tell the youths to go into farming without showing them what is in farming and how to get that thing, they will not be interested in going back to it... I know this because I was a youth over 30 years ago,” Manneh said.
Through the Humanitarian Opportunity for People Empowerment (HOPE), Manneh and some of his colleague businessmen are now seeking to empower the youths, particularly the back-way returnees, by giving them a lifeline to earn a decent living. The charitable NGO is engaging in cashew plantation with Gambian farmland owners, and this is how it works: The charity supports and encourages returnees into farming by providing them with all the necessary tools and guidance to grow cashew, and in return buy the harvest from them.
Most irregular migrants come from families that own lands, which they often sell to fund their journeys to Europe.
On the potential of cashew production to drive youths out of poverty, Mr. Manneh explained: “The cashew nut business is great in The Gambia and we are making good money through this here in ways that was impossible in Europe,”
He has already absorbed some back-way returnees from Libya to work as employees at his hotel. This is an example of hope we are giving them, he explained.
7 per cent of migrants who arrived in Libya in 2016 were Gambians, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees. Tens of thousands risked their lives to reach Europe in search of hope, which they had no way of finding in The Gambia over the past ten years.
IOM, the UN Migration Agency and the government of The Gambia a year ago launched the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Banjul. The D100 million project was meant to support 1,500 returned migrants to The Gambia to reintegrate into their communities of origin.
According to the IOM-Gambia Office, since January this year, more than 3000 Gambian migrants have been repatriated from the war-torn country of Libya.
However, the likes of Mr. Manneh and his NGO, HOPE, are private initiatives by private citizens helping to contribute to the country’s irregular migration crisis.
He said he saw himself in those youths who are so desperate to get to Europe by all means: “In those days [referring to youth days], nothing inspires me than going to Europe and making it from there. After living there for 33 years, I now know that it is not there…there is everything there.”