Farimang Manneh, the proprietor of Sand Beach Hotel and CEO of a leading cashew nut exporting company in The Gambia is using his successes in entrepreneurship to set up a scheme that would motivate the country's back-way returnees to engage in cashew production and export.
"We have an agreement through which we help educate you, provide you with start-up seeds and after planting, we harvest together and market it and agree on a commission basis," he said as his staff and team of volunteers distribute aid packages to a group of 168 returnees from Libya yesterday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview at the Banjul airport yesterday, Mr. Manneh said his newly formed charitable NGO is engaging in farming plantation with Gambians who own farmlands. He is today a leading exporter of cashew nuts to Vietnam and India.
Manneh has returned home five years ago after living for 33 years in Europe. Manneh returned to establish a cashew nut exporting firm, Mand M trading, as well as build a hotel that employs tens of Gambians in the tourism sector.
"This year, we began production and increasing production of cashew nuts. Through the Humanitarian Opportunity for People Empowerment (HOPE), Manneh and some businessmen in the country are now seeking to empower the youths, particularly the back-way returnees.
"The cashew nut business is great in The Gambia and we are making good money through this here in ways that was impossible in Europe," Mr. Manneh said, emphasizing that his business empire came about because of this.
He has already absorbed some back-way returnees from Libya to work as employees at his hotel. This is an example of hope we are giving them, he explained.
7 per cent of migrants who arrived in Libya in 2016 were Gambians, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees. Tens of thousands risked their lives to reach Europe in search of hope which they had no way of finding in The Gambia over the past ten years.
IOM, the UN Migration Agency and the government of The Gambia last month launched the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Banjul. The D100 million project was meant to support 1,500 migrants return to The Gambia to reintegrate into their communities of origin.
Over the last couple of months, about six chartered flights have been bringing Gambian migrants who have been trapped in Libya. Part of this work is also meant to contribute to the strengthening of Gambia's capacity to provide sustainable reintegration support.
However, the likes of Mr. Manneh and his NGO HOPE are private initiatives by private citizens helping to contribute to the country's migration crisis.
"If you tell the youths to go into farming without showing them what is in farming and how to get that thing, they will not be interested in going back... I know this because I was a youth over 30 years ago," Manneh said.
He said he saw himself in those youths who are so desperate to get to Europe by all means: "In those days, nothing inspires me than going to Europe and making it from there. After living there for 33 years, I now know that it is not there... there is anything there."