Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Food Security Corporation: This is a dangerous idea

The Food Security Corporation being floated by Yaya Jammeh and the Secretary General of his ruling party is a very dangerous idea which must be resisted at all cost, and here are a few of the reasons why:

We are concerned that Yaya Jammeh and the Secretary General of his ruling party, Momodou Sabally will succeed in their quest to establish a Food Security Corporation which has been called different names during different stages of the 21-day tour of the rural areas.  This suggests that the idea has not been thought through, as has been m,any ideas of this regime over the past 20 years which has jettisoned this once peaceful and thriving small economy into complete chaos.

They appear to be proposing the consolidation of rural agricultural land by transferring ownership from traditional settlers to a Yaya Jammeh-run Corporation.   This is dangerous.

Based on preliminary information reported in The Point newspaper, the regime intends to conduct what is being referred to as 'a comprehensive review"of the traditional land tenure system with a view to "freeing surplus land for agricultural production." To "free" the land from whom?  The rural folk.

Once the land is freed from the traditional owners, the commercial scale agriculture Jammeh and his side-kick have been promoting throughout the tour - including today's report in the Daily Observer where Jammeh is quoted as saying Gambia could produce 2 million tons of rice per year -  can only be achieved with foreign direct investment from the Gulf States that are buying huge tracks of land in Africa.  Jammeh is not leveling with the owners of these lands that he intends to deed to a Corporation that exists only in his mind.  Here lies another danger.

This incompetent and thoroughly corrupt regime should not be allowed to tamper with a traditional tenure system that has served us well by helping glue together rural communities and help foster social order and harmony over centuries.  Any change to the current system must be thoroughly and carefully studied, to be followed by a national debate or conversation that must be led by farmers and not Yaya Jammeh.  Any change in the current tenure must be done in an orderly fashion and gradually but only after careful study with the active participation of the traditional owners of the land.

Granted the current tenure system may not lend itself to full-scale commercial agriculture, and it also does not grant ownership to women,(only access is provided) but these can be fixed without having to turn the entire system on its head which is what Jammeh and Sabally are proposing - a very dangerous proposition for Gambians to sit idly by and see it happen.  The ownership of these vast tracks of agricultural land must never be transferred whole-scale to a Corporation that will be run from Kanilai.  This is dangerous.

At the risk of being called an alarmist, this is an extremely dangerous path for this regime to take, and thus must be resisted at all cost.  We hope the rural population, the Gambian people and the opposition parties will not stand idly by while their land is taken away from them, only to be deeded to a yet to be formed Corporation that will be controlled from Kanilai.  This scheme will disturb the rural order beyond anything ever imagined.  This is a dangerous scheme.