Ever since the president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh left Banjul for this year's tour under the banner of "Vision 2016 Rice Self-Sufficiency Tour", provincial administrative capitals have been experiencing a surge in economic activity thanks to spending by the accompanying delegates as well as other rural dwellers, who travel to these centers to take part in the activities.
There is of course palpable excitement in these centers as the presidential tour entered the seventh day. From Farafenni to Kaur and Lamin Koto crossing point to Janjangbureh, businesses are flourishing as more and more people throng these communities to attend President Jammeh's engagements, particularly meetings. Also noticeable is the fact that people pop into these numerous community shops and local markets on a daily basis to buy different things. And it looks like the traders are utilising the tour to satisfy their customers since this type of opportunity only presents itself only once or twice each year as the case might be.
Take for instance; ice block sellers, taxi drivers, lodges and other business entities who particularly making more money every day due to the high demand of these services. Given the high temperatures in rural Gambia at this time of the year, ice blocks sell very well. Thus, it is one of the most marketable commodities in the area as people buy it all the time.
But what does that mean? It means that the rural electrification project established by the Jammeh administration has enhanced livelihoods by creating opportunities for economic activity for residents of rural Gambia. This ultimately, creates opportunuties for more income for the rural dwellers, thus reducing poverty.
More importantly, this means that Gambians irrespective of where they are today stand the chance of enjoying many social amenities, such as electricity, clean drinking water etc - like those in the urban areas thanks to the considerate leadership of President Jammeh. The booming economic activities are indeed a manifestation of how Jammeh's developments have impacted positively on the lives of the people even in the farthest regions of the country.
"These days, business has been good as my ice blocks sell very fast compared to before the president's visit," an ice block seller, Mariama Jawo, told the Daily Observer at Lamin Koto crossing point. President Jammeh's tour is indeed focusing entirely on agricultural visits and intensification of his call for Gambians to till the land for food self-sufficiency, but there are some cultural aspects to it.
Being the country's number one culture and sports promoter himself, the president had attended one of the entertainment nights in Farafenni where he appeared alongside the Senegalese wrestling combat, Eumu Sene. The Gambian leader and this renowned wrestler both graced the show, which was characterised by cultural performances by the accompanying troupes and their rural counterparts. The fact that such activities are featured in the master programme of the Gambian leader goes to show how dear culture and tradition is to his heart.
Shifting from the issues above, the Gambian leader has so far held two successful meetings and numerous visits to arable lands identified for agricultural production. In all these engagements, he has been persistently appealing to the people of the area and the entire country at large to look at the country's agric sector, which has the potential of liberating the country from the decades-old dependency on imported rice and many other food items for the daily sustenance.
His presidential tour this year, has taken a new direction with his engagements mainly focusing on assessing vast farmlands that are suitable for agricultural production in pursuit of his 'Vision 2016 agenda" for Gambia to stop the importation of rice.
The president said in a meeting in Kaur, Central River Region, that majority of the ailments in the country today, which were previously unknown, are all due to the consumption of food items people don't know how and where they were produced. While stressing that Gambia's potentials are limitless if the people commit themselves to agriculture, the president in those meetings challenged Gambians to join the bandwagon so that the nation can end importation of food.