Oct 26, 2021, 1:20 PM
A staggering number of young Gambians have lost their lives trying to escape to Europe. United Nations Environment is implementing the largest natural resource development project in the history of the country to make their lives better back home.
For Alagie Camara, using his dwindling savings to leave The Gambia for Europe seemed the best option after the government closed the border with Senegal in 2015, and his vegetable import business that brought in US$50 a month collapsed.
But after surviving the perilous journey across deserts to reach Libya, “the back way” to Europe, he was captured and jailed alongside many other Gambians, stripped of everything they owned, abused and denied clean water, toilets and food.
After a month of hearing the many stories of countrymen being extorted and killed in Libya, drowning in the Mediterranean or becoming beggars on the streets of Europe, a weakened Camara and 140 other Gambians flew home, vowing to start a farming business on home soil.
“We go to Senegal to get vegetables—why don’t we try in this country? We can encourage people to grow and stay here,” said Camara, who set up the Association of Returnees from the Back Way.
The Gambia is one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of under 2 million, yet so many Gambians have left that the country ranks as one of the world’s top six nations for migration via Libya and the Mediterranean.
As a sliver of land with a river running through it to the west African coast, The Gambia is highly susceptible to climate change, and its people very vulnerable after decades of dictatorial rule by President Yaya Jammeh, who was ousted in 2016.
Increasingly frequent and severe floods and droughts have caused erosion and damaged agricultural lands, while rising temperatures, erratic rainfall and increasing deforestation and poor farming practices have dried up or washed away soils, leading to degradation and desertification.
Association of Returnees from the Back Way is looking to stop young people from leaving The Gambia and helping those who return to go back to farming by getting land in the most hard-hit provinces.
The Association has already managed to secure some areas of degraded land by approaching village chiefs, and hopes that young people will be given more opportunities as the government tries to build a green economy.
Source-Gambia youth news