United Nations Environment is implementing the largest natural resource development project to make the lives of young people better back home.
Gambia youth, Alagie Camara, who spent all his dwindling savings to leave The Gambia for Europe, sees his decision as 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, 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,” Camara, who set up the Association of Returnees from the Back Way said.
Gambia is one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of just under 2 million, yet so many Gambians have left the country. It’s is ranked 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 lost power in the 2016 presidential election.
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.
“In many of these rural areas, the environment and natural resource conditions are one of the driving reasons for migration,” Camara said.
The rural exodus of largely young people means that 53.5 per cent of Gambians now live around the capital Banjul, where lack of opportunities is driving many young people to set their sights further afield.
“Most of them think that Europe is the solution, so they leave to look for greener pastures abroad,” he said.