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City of Banjul
Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pigs get fat while people starve

Scientists from the UK and China have a new theory of the reason behind the outbreak of the pandemic. Pigs! Pork is the main source of the meat in China. About two years ago there was a huge outbreak of the South African swine fever that spread to China. There is no cure for this swine fever, so all affected (or feared affected) pigs must be slaughtered. This became a huge problem in China, both for pig farms who lost their income, but also for the Chinese people who suddenly found themselves without the meat they all depend on.

40-60 per cent of all the pigs in China were slaughtered, and even for us Muslims who are not allowed to eat pork it is not hard to understand how devastating that was. Before I continue, I wish to tell anyone who is reading this article that I am trying to be neutral in this case. So many have been affected by the pandemic that began in China, I am one of them, but let us put our logical hat on for a while and look at some facts without placing our emotions in the mix.

1,443,297,358.

This is the number of the population of China and please don’t ask me to read the numbers out loud because that is impossible for me. If you struggle with the same, then I can give you some other numbers so you can compare them.

2,280,000.

Two million, two hundred and eighty thousand, and that is the population of The Gambia. Just try to imagine how many pigs they have to breed in China to be able to feed their people!

How is that YOUR problem, you might ask? The sad thing is that it is already your problem, depending on two factors: fish and the pandemic. The Chinese feed their pigs with fishmeal. Does that make a bell sound in your mind? Yes, we have all heard of the fishmeal factory in Sanyang and what happened there. I don’t defend these actions, to burn down both the police station in Sanyang and the fishmeal factory, but the sad fact is that riots are sprung from a sense of resignation. There has been nothing but problems with the fishmeal factory from the start, and people living in Sanyang feel they are unheard by those who actually can change the situation for the better.

Let us begin by looking at the women. They are the ones who have the lowest income and they are the ones who suffer most when they lose the little income they have. The women support a whole family by their hard work. Waiting on the beach every morning to get a bucket of fish they can sell has almost become a waiting in vain . The little fish the women are able to get is not enough and the little money they can get from selling the fish is not enough to feed a family, pay school fees and medications for those who are ill. The fishmeal factory has not helped the people of Sanyang a bit, only made life worse than before.

Before people could afford to buy fish to feed the family, you even have a word for it which I have never heard of anywhere else: fish money. The house wives get some fish money from their husbands, but this money has to be stretched thin because the fish is so expensive nowadays. Meat is even more expensive, so it is a struggle to bring food on your table. The people of The Gambia are starving while the Chinese pigs get fat, a sad fact. The reason for why you don’t have enough fish to feed yourselves is because almost all the fish is caught and made to fishmeal.

Along the Chinese coast lines there are strict laws and regulations for how to fish, when to fish and what size of fish is allowed to catch. Three months every year is a resting period when it is forbidden to catch fish there. The reason is that the small fish must be allowed to grow and become big before anyone is allowed to catch them. Breaking the laws in China comes with severe punishments, but the Chinese pigs don’t care – they are hungry and want to be fed no matter what.

This is where the Chinese problem becomes your problem. The Chinese laws and regulations don’t apply along the African coast line.

China is a super power, most African countries along the coast line we are familiar with don’t have any power to speak about. If there is some power it is mostly used against the citizens, and not to benefit them somehow. Corruption seems to be the motto for most African leaders, and as long as their own stomachs are full and their bank accounts are even fuller, they don’t bother so much about their own people. The African leaders make agreements with the Chinese delegates, and suddenly you find yourself in a dilemma. You might see a photo in a newspaper or on TV where our leaders shake hands with a Chinese delegate. As you don’t know much about the case you get fooled to believe that the agreements these men make must benefit The Gambia – why else should they make them?

The reason is not because of you, it is because these people use their power for their own benefit and they don’t give a rat’s a** about you. Some days before the fishmeal factory in Sanyang was burned down, some representatives from the company were walking around the women’s vegetable gardens. They were measuring the surroundings and wanted to extend the area of the factory. Of course this caused a storm of protests, not only from the women but also from the youth in the area. Thanks to this protest storm, the decision to expand the factory in Sanyang was drawn back. Where were any representative from our government to defend the women and their only chance of having some kind of income? Once again the government has shown their complete uninterest in the wellbeing of the Gambians.

Now about the theory I began this article with. Because of the South African swine fever that had struck the Chinese pigs, the Chinese tried to find other sources of protein. These sources were wild animals, rare animals that normally are not suitable for feeding people. Some of these animals had infections that could spread from them to humans. When they gather all kinds of more or less unusual wild animals at what the Chinese call a ”wetmarket” , these animals spread diseases to each other and from each other to humans.

The knowledge wasn’t there until it was too late, and what made it worse was the Chinese government’s main priority: to not lose face. Chinese scientists who reported their findings to the government were hushed and even punished for that. Prestige was more important than human lives and not until the Chinese government were forced to tell the truth the world had already become infected. We need to keep them responsible, but we also need to learn from their mistakes. It is a sad thing though that our people in The Gambia must suffer in so many ways. You starve because others feed their pigs with your food. You are not allowed to eat pork, and now you can’t eat fish because others make pork with it. Isn’t that ironical?

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