President Jammeh retreats to the land

Beginning of an annual vacation

Report on an interview with President Yahya Jammeh

conducted in Kanilai, by Kebba Dibba of Gambia Radio and Television Services

7th August 2006

President Jammeh has started his annual vacation in his home village of Kanilai. Vacations normally have a connotation of leisure and relaxation for many but when it concerns President Jammeh, it is certainly a different experience altogether.

From the comfort of the presidential office, Dr Jammeh retreated to the muddy fields of his Kanilai Farms where farm labour has become a daily ritual for him. Being the country's single biggest farmer, the president's “back-to-the land” call has been underpinned by a leadership by example philosophy.

At the Kanilai Farms, the President himself led a team of workers on a rainy day, ploughing, sowing, applying chemicals and harvesting, using a range of implements; from the most rudimentary to motorised tillers.

In an interview with The Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS), President Jammeh said for the 12th year in succession he has never spent a single vacation outside the Gambia, insisting that he is a natural born farmer who has called on his people to go back to the land and must therefore lead by example.

Affairs of state

Notwithstanding the vacation, the President is still firmly in control of the affairs of state. On a daily basis, huge volumes of files await him in Kanilai for treatment and the man says he hates files pilling up on his table. The president therefore has to make a delicate balancing act between farm work and daily collection of files from Banjul . He said he spent a good deal of the night on the files which are returned the following morning and new ones brought.

Plant and animal species.

Kanilai Farms has a wide range of fauna and flora from different parts of the world both for production as well as research purposes. Plant species also include varieties rich in medicinal property. The president himself has a wealth of knowledge of plants and herbal medicine and has exploited this rare natural gift to the advantage of the sick.










Agro processing

President Jammeh described as disturbing the sight of rotten fruits at the peak of the harvesting season, a situation he insists cannot continue. The status quo underscores the urgency of the need for a processing industry in the country to add value and to preserve. President Jammeh said a processing plant is not only a policy initiative but that he is personally committed to its realization before the end of December. Apart from the processing initiative, the president said arrangements are already underway to enable the Gambia export fruits directly to neighbouring as well as other countries.


The president's Kanilai Farms is also involved in horticultural farming. In the face of a mushrooming tourism industry, hotels are springing up across the country and the demand on horticultural products is growing steadily. The president said although he has scaled down horticultural production this year, he has the potential and the capacity to supply any hotel with fresh organic products. Dr Jammeh also said he has enough collection of vegetable seeds and is ready to supply those who want to take up the venture seriously with a view to enabling the local market meet increasing domestic demand.


Protecting local horticultural industry
The growing importation of foreign horticultural products at the expense of the local industry is a growing source of concern for the president. He said local women are largely involved in horticulture and have suffered for too long now because of the attitude of some unscrupulous elements. The president dismissed as unfounded claims that what is produced locally falls far short of market demand. He argued that tons of high quality vegetables get rotten each year because the hotels don't buy them and instead buy from people whom import them from across the border. The President therefore said the local horticultural industry will have to be protected through a range of measures. He said directives will be issued to the departments of state for trade and tourism to work out with hoteliers' modalities of a scheme that will ensure that local women producers are protected. The president said only horticultural products that are not available locally will be imported henceforth.


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