By Omar Bah
The Gambia Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) Thursday launched its first ever rural youth award 2017 at the NEMA project conference hall in Abuko.
Speaking in detail about the award at the launching, the GYIN Gambia executive director Mamadou Edrissa Njie said his organization is an international youth network supported by the Rome based international fund for agriculture development (IFAD); a UN agency specialized in rural development.
He said the network has a cordial relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of finance, agriculture projects as well as other NGOs and CBOs.
“GYIN Gambia was selected by IFAD as a leading youth mobilization network for agricultural development in the country and fully participated in the designing of the Nema project, which is a US$65M IFAD/IsDB and AFDB co-funded project which started implementation in 2012-2019 directly assisting 28,729 household, “he said.
He said GYIN as a key stakeholder, is nominated member of the project steering committee for Nema and has collaborated with the project for the implementation of youth related-activities such as trainings and small-scale vegetable garden production.
“GYIN Gambia Chapter implemented the Entrepreneurship component of the Nema project by training 50 rural youth in LRR and NBR on Entrepreneurship. In 2016 GYIN organized an international event on youth agribusiness, leadership and Entrepreneurship and innovation (YALES) in Dakar, Senegal,” he said.
He said 400 delegates worldwide attended that event in the Senegalese capital.
The GYIN executive director further stressed that his organization has over the years facilitated the registration of many community-based organizations with the ministry of Justice (Attorney General Chambers).
“Some of these organizations are the Network of Entrepreneurs the Gambia (NEG), and Jarumeh Koto Foundation (JKoto Foundation. This is all drive by GYIN’s aim to create and support an enabling environment under which young people in the country can be self-sufficient,” he explained.
Mariama Saine, a GYIN member, said: “Rural youth are generally known to be low income earners, however, recognition of successful youth in agribusiness, entrepreneurship and information technology could serve as a model for the majority of others who are yet to enter into start-up ventures and open doors for access to finance.”
She said the rural youth award will serve as a platform to celebrate the success of rural youth in the value chain thus supporting them to become self-reliant as the value chain investment include coaching, mentoring, business development advisory and asset accumulation for enterprises.
“Young people are the most precious resource a rural community can have. But today, many rural communities are losing their young people because there are often so few incentives for them to stay and forming themselves into cooperatives groups is a challenge thus making it difficult for them to access finance,” she stressed.
She continued: “The major difficulties faced by rural entrepreneurs include low level of purchasing power of rural consumer, lack of finance to start up business, reduced profits due to competition, pricing of goods and services and dependence on small money lenders for loans for which they charge discriminating interest rates”.
She said the award is meant to support rural youth business ideas/plans, provide six months mentorship for rural youth awardees, assist rural people in raising their incomes, support increased agricultural production and productivity, access to markets and services among others.
The program manager NYC, Alhagie Jarju extolled GYIN for coming up with such an initiative and urged the country’s media to give attention to the event.
He reassured the GYINERs of NYC’s unflinching support and collaboration. “The NYC’s doors are always open when it comes to the issues of the young people of this country”.
Meanwhile, Bakary EK Jammeh, head of Knowledge Management and Communication at NEMA on behalf of the project director, gave a summary of the project saying it is a seven-year project funded by IFAD is meant to assist women and youths.
According to him, they operate under three components notably lowland and upland development, business development with focus on Agriculture and Project facilitation respectively.
“On Component one and two, the youths of the country benefits most. We are now constructing nine vegetable gardens, many of which are meant for youths. We are also about to construct 22 other vegetable gardens for the youths” he said.
Mr Jammeh however noted that their only challenge is that youths are not forthcoming in taking up ownership citing rural-urban drift and the perilous Libya journey as major contribution.
He implored GYIN to make sure that in next year’s event, they make emphasis on agricultural production, vegetable gardening and processing as priority. He reminded Gambia youths to venture into agriculture business saying it is one of the fastest ways to gain income and sure food security.