Friday, April 15, 2011

Water for Women Gardeners Could Improve Lives in Mandinaring

L-R Sainey Marenah and Kerri Nanni
Ah! It appears that people are easily inspired these days. For instance, the popular protests sweeping across North Africa and Middle East were inspired by Egypt and Tunisia. And here in The Gambia, a reading club formed by Cindy Greg, Deputy Chief of Mission of US Embassy was motivated to help in improving the lives of Gambian women. Inspired by ‘Half the Sky’, a book authored by two US journalists – couples – who traveled to different parts of the world bringing to the fore the harsh realities about world’s women and providing support, the group led by Nanni Kerri of US Embassy went on a fact-finding mission in Mandinaring garden. Kissykissymansa was part of the group and he now reports. 

The last stars could still be visible when women growers in Mandinaring, a village in Kombo North, would set-out to their gardens, paving their way through a shadowy narrow-path, using their naked bulb.

“Why are you gardening?” a question that flirts the women as they put-up broad smiles in amusement before replying: “Our garden provides us income in order to pay our children’s school fees and put food on the table.”

Agriculture, indeed, is the most important activity in The Gambia. It plays a significant role in the socio-economic development of the country as food and feed provider, employer and income earner.

Several official and non-official reports have it that agriculture sector employs over 75 percent of the population and contributes about 19 percent of GDP, generates 85 percent of foreign exchange and earning and 40 percent of total earnings.

Yet the activity is subsistence based with little diversification and mainly relies on short-term rain-fed agriculture with food self-sufficiency ratio of about 50 percent.

Although crop production is dependent on rainfall, nonetheless, horticulture provides all-year-round activity and it is rapidly emerging as one of the key sectors of The Gambia economy.

According to the Country Research Report (2009), horticulture contributes 4 percent of GDP and employs over 65 percent of agricultural labour force.

And women are found to be in the forefront even while working under limiting environment.

In Mandinaring for instance, women are the ones who toil on the ground under the scorching sun making the best of the land they have at their disposal.

The garden they work on is not protected from hungry animals that regularly eat away the fruit of their hardship and investment.
The 200 hectre garden is half-way fenced, thanks to the support of some philanthropists who according to the women, run out of funds to complete the fencing project. The unfenced part is what is forcing the women to stay in the garden late in the night to guard their garden against animal assault.

“We usually stay here [at the garden] till late in the night,” explained one woman who went on to narrate how she recently collapsed into tears after the cows eat up her garden produce the very day she wanted to harvest.

According to the women, the 200 hectre is divided among the village women, but the space allocated could not accommodate every village women.

Yet, about half of the garden is not exploited because the land is dry and irrigation water has to be lifted from a well some 100 metres away. There are only 20 wells.

 “My designated plot of land is over there,” a woman pointed at an unreasonable distance away from the well. “I am unable to utilise it because the well is very far away.”

Another factor limiting the production range of women is due to lack of skills and knowhow on the production of new varieties. Skill seems to be severely limited among these women, who are mainly unlettered and are underexposed to improved technologies.

“Would you like to learn how to do gardening?” another obvious question that was met with an overwhelming ‘Yes’.
Women also decried lack of market to sell their produces as they have to travel down to Serrekunda market where they would face with yet another daunting challenge.
“When we go to Serekunda market, the municipal police would collect the fee from us yet they would not give us place to sell,” said Binta. “Instead, we would be sent away.”
Binta explained how one of the women from the village met her untimely death sometime ago in Serrekunda market. 

“She was hit by a car and died,” she explained. Another one, she said, was also hit by car, but maimed for life.

Moreover, given that there is no storage facility to keep-fresh their quick-to-perish produce for a reasonable time, the women are compelled to sell their goods at give-away prices despite huge investment of time and labour in improved production activities.
In summing-up, the working condition of these women growers is such that there is no assurance of good returns for their hardships: the level of production per hectare is low; the market is still beyond their reach; there is adequate water supply, and the price of the commodities not commensurate with the labour put into the production.

And yet, the incomes of these women go to the feeding and welfare of their families. They pay for the education of their children, doing their best to send both the boys and girls to schools.
Despite the numerous challenges, these women are even optimistic that with some form of help such as provision of adequate water supply and fencing of the garden, the living condition of people in the village would be greatly improved.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wade, Compaore & Jammeh Loss Ethics Award to Malian President

By Baboucarr Ceesay
The Malian president, Amadou Toumani Toure is named the winner of 2011 Keba Mbye Ethics Prize.
Toure was nominated for the award alongside President Abdoulie Wade of Senegal, Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.
The judges of the award are said to be displeased with the way Abdoulaye Wade, Blaise Compaore and Yaya Jammeh manage funds coupled with draconian undemocratic acts.
For instance, Abdoulaye Wade’s problems are the recurrent financial scandals, including the Segura case, the gerrymandering of the Constitution among other cases.  
For The Gambian President Yaya Jammeh, the ongoing kingship campaign by loyalists which constitute National Assembly members and traditional chiefs to make him  "emperor" of the Gambia; refusing emergence of an opposition worthy of the name and the gagging of freedom of expression have played against him.
As for the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, his accession to the presidency by a military coup and the results "exaggerated" (80%) in an election have been a drag on the alleged torture of Thomas Sankara and Norbert Zongo.

Mouhamadou Wakhab Talla, the president of the foundation said they are bound by the secrecy of deliberations. However, sources close to the foundation said President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, President Abdoulaye of Senegal, president Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso were on the list of nominees in competition with the winner.
President Toure first came to power when he led a military take over that ended 23-year regime of Moussa Traore on 26 March 1991. He organized the national conference between 29 July and 12 August 1991 which drew up the Constitution of Mali and the legislative and presidential elections in 1992.
When the results of the election were released he relinquished power to the newly elected president, Alpha Oumar Konaré. Because of this, he gained the nickname "The Soldier of Democracy”.
In June 2001, he became the special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the Central African Republic after the failed coup attempt there. Toumani was later demanded by his people and elected president in 2002 and also re-elected in 2007.
Toure’s excellent track record attracted the board of Keba Mbaye Foundation selection committee composed of seven eminent personalities from the world of law, ethics, economics and sport to select him as winner.

The Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, will on April 16, 2011, receive the "Keba Mbaye Ethics Prize," to be enveloped with a "symbolic" financial FCFA 5,000,000 at Daniel Sorano Theatre in Dakar, Senegal.

The foundation’s president, Talla said: “After the military operation he led, Amadou Toumani Toure was elected president of the National Reconciliation Committee in March 29.
He led the transition that lasts 14 months and garnered significant results for the young democracy in Mali in particular the convening of the National Conference in the record time of 15 days which produced texts of importance, such as: project Constitution, the Electoral Code, the charter party, the state and the nation.
His share in the areas of humanitarian and mediation are numerous. In total, the Republic of Mali has now become an exemplary democracy, it owes largely to Amadou Toumani Toure.
Given all these qualities, Talla said that the jury chose the right man for this award, adding they were comforted in their decision and they did not make a mistake.
The prize is not reserved exclusively for Africans, but to the whole world.
The awarding foundation is named after Keba Mbaye, a Senegalese judge who held several high-ranking positions in the International Olympic Committee, and died in 2007 at the age of 82 at his home in Dakar, Senegal.
He was an I.O.C. member from 1973 to 2002, serving as vice president from 1988 to 1992 and was an executive board member from 1984 to 1988 and 1993 to 1998.
Mbaye was president of the Court of Arbitration for Sports, the highest tribunal in the Olympic movement, since 1983 and chairman of the I.O.C. ethics commission since 1999.
He was a former vice president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Mr. Mbaye played a pivotal role in bringing South Africa back into the Olympic fold after the apartheid era. He has been in charge of a new ethics commission to police the conduct of I.O.C. members and onetime head of the I.O.C. panel on legal matters.

Vice Chancellor Kah Ordered to Show Why He Shouldn’t Be Sent to Prisons

The Vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia (UTG) is under-fire for failing to execute a court order which obliged him to effect the promotion of Dr Felixatina Eileen Dowu Jonsyn Ellis from Associate Professor to a full professional rank.
After a week-long thorough investigations, Kissykissymansa has now grasped the crux of the legal tussle involving the country’s highest institution as the University’s officials refused to divulge information.
The civil suit filed against the UTG was instituted by Dr Felixatina Eileen Dowu Jonsyn Ellis, a former acting vice chancellor - from December 2004-October 2005, our investigations revealed.   
Dr Felixatina, a Gambian female Scientist was wrongfully dismissed in 2006 following an accusation made against her allegedly by former Registrar and some senior officials of the University. 
She instituted an action at the High Court, but Office of the President advised that University authorities to resolve the matter out of court. 
A Consented Judgement was entered in April 2009 in favour of the Gambian female scientist. The University authority was ordered to re-instate her, pay her entitlements, compensate her D50, 000, and promote her from Associate Professor to full Professional rank within 10 days.
All the recommendations had been fulfilled except the promotion as the University had claimed that Dr. Felixatina’s documents were not found.
The University assured her that she would be promoted once she re-submitted her documents, which she did she was never promoted, despite her promotion had been approved by the University Council since April 2009.
The Daily News understands that it is the University Senate that makes assessment for promotion of staff and recommends to the University Council for approval. Once the Council approves, there is nothing remaining except administrative task of implementing the decision.
And Dr Felixatina’s promotion had been approved since April 2009 by the University Council, but it was never effected.    
A ruling was done in her favour by Justice Mahoney in March 22, 2011, ordering vice chancellor Kah to effect the promotion within 10 days, and in default he is ordered to appear in court to show cause why he should not be committed to prisons for contempt.
Kah was supposed to appear on Monday at High Court in Banjul, but he travelled out of the country and the matter is resuming Tuesday April 12.

Our Journey is So Far So Good

                L-R: Swaebou Conate, Bijou Peters, Bakary Sanneh & myself 
“Despite entering a crowded newspaper market, The Daily News quickly establishes itself as the primary source of information in almost all aspect of The Gambia’s development.” So said Kissykissy Mansa, also editor in chief of The Daily News on the occasion of the second anniversary of paper on Wednesday April 6.  

“We take this opportunity to thank all those who congratulated us on our second year anniversary as a paper, by way of joining us here to celebrate.

Our special thanks and appreciation go to Mr Swaebou Conate and Bijou Peters who accepted our offer to deliver on topics despite their busy schedule and old age.  
The Daily News is a private Gambian tri-weekly newspaper that publishes in print and online.
The paper was established on April 6, 2009 by Madi M.K Ceesay, a seasoned Gambian journalist. A CPJ (CPJ) International Press Freedom 2006 Awardee, Mr Ceesay is a former president of The Gambia Press Union.
He had a stint with the banned Independent Newspaper as General Manager before setting up The Gambia’s premier and only media oriented training NGO, Media Agenda in 2006. Media Agenda is the parent company of The Daily News.
Since inception, The Daily News has fiercely guarded the values of free press, anchored on social justice and democracy. Our uncompromising commitment to journalistic integrity has seen the paper grow into a powerful voice bringing to the public the untold stories of the country and beyond.
Despite entering a crowded newspaper market, The Daily News quickly establishes itself as the primary source of information in almost all aspect of The Gambia’s development.
Today – two years on, The Daily News stands out as a major provider of Gambia’s economic, social, political, cultural and sports news without compromising our editorial independence over the choice of issues to address and approaches to adopt. This is something the public appreciates.

Apart from the routine reportage of daily occurrences, The Daily News incorporated a number of innovations. Notable is the introduction of columns such as Kaabefo, Youth Platform, Business Matters, Health, Environment, Entertainment, Human Rights, Women’s Bantaba, Matters of the Heart, Religion and Kissykissymansa, among others.
Our columns supplements the news service with production of op-ed articles that reflects balance of reason so you can be sure of getting insightful and well-researched information. Our columns are anchored by both the staff and non-staff experts who analyse changes and new trends in different aspects of development in such a way as to ensure the widest possible expression of different ideological backgrounds.

Our achievements and challenges

We have been able to expand our frequency, the number of pages and our production within two years of operation. None, but the committed and dedicated staff deserve the greatest share of the commendation for these achievements.  
They are not better paid than others, yet the most committed. They are not better trained nor equipped logistically than others, yet the most ready to deliver quality.

However, the enormity of achievement is not an indication that all is rosy here at The Daily News. We are aware of the need to improve on the content and design of the paper. Our staff need to better motivated, financially and in terms of capacity building since a large number of our reporters are young journalists.
Moreover, there is a need to improve on the logistical capacity of the paper in terms of computers, camera and voice recorders. These are tools that do not only enhance our service delivery, but also assure our protection.
Everyday a number of printing and editorial constraints have affected the timeliness of the publication. We have been trying to feature stories exclusive to us, yet we know that news for yesterday, it is said, is meant for the dustbin.

No excuse to hide information

The media in The Gambia has seen remarkable growth and development. It all augurs well for the future since no democracy can function well without a free press playing its multifaceted role as watchdog role, educator, informer and entertainer on the national scene.
Therefore, one of the many functions of the media, The Daily News included, is to unravel everyday complex behavior for the benefit of our society.
In this regard, state and non state actors should partner with media. There is a need for those in the frontline of public communication to open their doors for the tax payers to know what they are doing on their behalf. That is how a responsive society operates. Transparency should be the order of the day. There is no excuse to hide information.  
Moreover, journalists, like all citizens, must be accorded all the protection of the law in the country that we are proud to call our own. This is where we are born and where we belong.
In all countries, citizens, including journalists, look forward to their government’s protection; to sleep in peace in the comfort of their homes and to leave for and from their work places with the firm belief nothing excessive will happen to them. This is the kind of Gambia us journalist deserve to live in.
However, where media houses can be burnt, where a reporter disappeared untraced, where veterans like Deyda can be gruesomely murdered and worst still, where these crimes go undetected, criminals unpunished, the future of even The Daily News, like all media houses, remains uncertain.

Our appreciation

The Daily News would not have come such a long way without its readers’ attention and support. Individual readers provide us with important feedback on our work and often bring to our attention issues and events that deserve further analysis.
Furthermore, behind the scene workers; the, vendors, compilers, printers are all vital to our survival and our success.
In addition, a country with a government whose activities are shrouded in secrecy, it is not easy to find people willing to divulge information for fear of the consequences. Yet some who have confidence in us or are close to us, do let slip some important information to us for further investigation. Although sound editorial judgment is needed in dealing with such information, without tips what has turned out to be big news stories would not have been know by us and the public at large. These are our collaborators.  A recent example was our story on the University of The Gambia, which was a tip provided to us by a caller who refused to disclose his/her name. But we worked on the tip he/she provided and it turned out to worth a lead story.

It must be stated here that our contributors and sponsors are vital part of our success. These are those who send us letters, commentaries, coverage invitations, advertisements and press releases. Although, the contributors, for instance, come in all shapes and sizes – ranging from politicians to students, as well those concerned with everyday development, I would like to mention few. For instance, veteran journalist Baa Trawally, who some of the young reporters are fond of, especially for the strong article he wrote on the American Pastor’s foiled burning of the Holy Quran, is one of our regular contributors.
Bai Koro Sillah, otherwise ‘Nyuni nenla,’ also a nickname which emanates from the commentary he wrote on the weekly programme on GRTS.
Bijou Peters, is indeed, the most regular contributors. Her articles touch on a range of issues, from human rights to the economy. The latest to join, is an exemplary one in the person of Demba Ali Jawo. He wrote quite a good number of articles, but the ones on: ‘Why Britain Cuts Aid to Gambia,’ the Deputy Speaker Extravagant life style and National Assembly’s capitulation to the president are well appreciated by the public, as the feedback, we had indicated.
Mr Dawda Faye of The Point is worth mentioning here and some other young ones namely Modou Joof of The Voice and Momodou Edrissa Njie, my own mentor of News and Report.   We encourage you all to write more.
To UNESCO-NATCOM, our unreserved thanks to you for the timely provision of two computers, two cameras and voice recorders which happen to be the only tools we are using at the present to do our work.

Together with you all, we are able to come this far and encouraged to do more.”