The recent announcement by the office of President for The Gambia Armed Forces in partnership with AGCO Corporation , an American Company based in South Africa “to begin a large scale agricultural production in The Gambia with the goal of achieving food security “ is the greatest threat to our country’s democracy and economic development in the coming decades. It is a well established fact that in The Gambia, “agriculture is the main engine of our economy and it contributes 32% of the gross domestic product. It also provides major source of employment and income for 80% of the population. It represent 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings in our current economy ”. This is a significant contribution from majority of our citizens who depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Thus, Agriculture is the backbone of our economy since it is the biggest source of income and employment opportunities for our poor population whose majority lives under one dollar a day.
The decision to outsource the agricultural productivity to foreign company in partnership with The Gambia armed forces has both economic and political implications which will cost our country greatly in the near future. Economically, this project is not good for Gambian people because it will put many farmers out of work as a result of the military having a better agricultural tools to compete with disadvantaged poor farmers. It also mean that all farm productions will be managed by the Armed forces and AGCO Corporation for pure business venture to maximize profits . The negative effect is not only to increase unemployment as suggested above but also lack of income generating activities for many citizens who depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Our agricultural production will be in the hands of military and foreign company concluding that 32 % of GDP will be controlled by Armed forces and their foreign ally . Already The Gambia Armed forces is enjoying significant budgetary allocation at the expense of other sectors like health and education. Throughout the world, classic example of Military engagement in large scale agricultural production is happening in Egypt where the military control the economy and leadership of the country. Egyptian military decide the country’s leadership and this is evidenced by successive leaders who were installed in Presidency through military coups .
The AGCO Corporation is an international company which is only interested to maximize profits. According to the company website , they “design , manufacture and distribute agricultural equipment “. AGCO company specializes in production of agricultural equipment and should not be engaged in large scale agricultural production in The Gambia at the expense of poor farmers . The main mission of the company is to make “ profitable growth “ just like other business ventures. The decision to engage The Gambia armed forces in partnership with AGCO Corporation is the most dangerous decision made by President Barrow’s administration since its installation. This announcement clearly indicates that President Barrow is not fit to lead the country in a better direction. Any intelligent and responsible leadership would quickly recognize that The Gambian military just emerged from 22 years of military dictatorship characterized by gross human rights violations and economic exploitation. The empowerment of our military with an expansive commercial agricultural project would effectively put majority of citizens out of work and deprive them of economic prosperity as clearly mentioned above. It simply demonstrates lack of vision and pose a major threat to our democratization process in the coming decades. The background of our current military leadership should have sent a strong message to every single citizen and National Assembly that this project is dangerous for the country not only to eradicate economic opportunities for the farmers but also to effectively put our military in charge of our economy. When the military is in charge of our economy, it simply means they would be in charge of political leadership and entire government. This is the dangerous path President Barrow just announced as his vision to transform our agricultural production.
Gambians would recall that during 22 years of military dictatorship, the Gambian Armed forces was one of the most ineffective institution that Dictator Yaya Jammeh used as a tool against the Gambian people. This is evidenced in the various commissions we have seen so far. The military officers at the statehouse were used to rob the country’s economy from the central bank at the expense of poor people . The ongoing the Truth and Reconciliation Reparation Commission (TRRC) , is also currently witnessing how the military effectively brutalized their fellow citizens in the name of power they had during military dictatorship. Without any effective reform in place to transform our military and security forces, President Barrow and his clueless political hacks continue to mortgage the future of our country with such reckless endeavor for corruption and political expediency.
If President Barrow and his political cronies are serious about large scale agricultural production, they would have engaged AGCO company to provide farming equipment and other latest technological innovations to Gambian farmers to increase productivity. This would be the best cost-effective strategy to help the Gambian farmers move beyond traditional subsistence farming to increase productivity through latest technologies. AGCO company could also work with ministry of agriculture to train agriculture extension workers and farmers on how to use latest agricultural equipment in various parts of the country. Since the ministry of agriculture has extension workers across country , the implementation of this project will be easy and it will effectively put Gambians in charge of agriculture production but not foreign company with the goal of maximizing profits. The empowerment of farmers with agricultural equipment is the best strategy that would encourage local people to invest in large scale agricultural production for food sufficiency. It will effectively create job and business opportunities as well as expose farmers to modernization of agriculture. With the provision of agricultural equipment and latest technologies across the country, Gambians would take ownership and lead in agricultural productivity. Thus Laziness , dependency and suicide mission through back-way to Europe which are current Gambian problems will be significantly reduced. Rural -urban migration will be curtailed when our farmers are given latest farming technological equipment. Young people will be able to stay in the country realizing they can make it without embarking on dangerous activities within and outside the country. Just empower citizens to improve their lives. This is what leadership is all about.
Politically, this announcement is a threat to our democracy because we have unreformed and ragtag military which lack professionalism to be in charge of our economy. This simply invites more military coups , corruption and influence in our politics and political leadership. This is a dangerous precedence for a country that just emerged from military dictatorship. The Gambian military needs institutional reforms which encourage education on civil liberties and role of military in a democracy. Currently, there is no indication that the military has transformed from its past brutal practices.
The Gambia needs a new political leadership with intelligent vision, moral integrity and determination to achieve food sufficiency. Adama Barrow is not intelligent enough and morally incapable to provide that kind of leadership. He is more corrupt than Dictator Yaya Jammeh as evidenced by various corruption reports since he was installed as president. During the first two years of previous military regime , Yaya Jammeh never built expensive mansion for himself at his home village like how Adama Barrow has done and continue to enrich himself. Statehouse is a bribery place for any investment opportunity in the country. The Gambian National Assembly should investigate AGCO business dealing with Barrow’s statehouse and the whole project of large scale agricultural production in the country. Agricultural is a huge sector that shouldn’t be outsourced and monopolized by the Armed forces and foreign company. It is time to act now to stop this administration ongoing corruption through business dealings and phony companies with no genuine interest to advance our economy.
Written By Max Jarju
Editors note: The views expressed by the author do not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper. Thanks for your attention.