By Nelson Manneh
Internally displaced Gambians in Foni decried insufficient seedlings for cultivation and requested support for seeds from the Gambia Government as the farming season approaches.
Some say they have not cleared their farmlands yet because they do not have seeds.
As a result of the ongoing fighting in Casamance, residents of communities along the border in The Gambia relocated for safety, as some continue to live in precarious conditions.
They expressed concern over their farming prospect amid the ongoing fighting between the Senegalese soldiers and the separatist forces of the Movement for Democratic Casamance (MFDC). The internally displaced persons lamented that they continue to experience displacements from their villages in the past four months, as the war continues in Casamance and in some instances, bullets land in Gambian territory.
Arafang Gibba, a native of Jakin Village, got displaced with his family to Kampanti because shells were landing in Jakin.
“When I was seeking refuge with my family, I left all my goods including my seedlings there, with the hope that I will be going back soon. But up to date, the borders are not at safe and some of us are afraid to go back with our families,” he said.
Gibba said he is a farmer, but did not have seedlings for this year’s farming season and has no other trade apart from farming.
“We want the government to help us with seedlings so that we can go back to the farms and continue with our farming activities,” he said.
He added: “During these trying times, some of us have consumed our seedlings because they do not have enough food. Before leaving Jakin, we were hosting relatives who migrated from Casamance to the Gambia.”
Modou Gibba, Alkalo of Giffanga Village, said he has already cleared his farmland even though he does not have enough seedlings.
“I hosted refugees from Casamance for the past three months and I was feeding them,” he said.
He stated that his seedlings are less than what he needs. Alkalo Gibba calls for support for the internally displaced people, especially with seedlings to cultivate.
“I have a good number of internally displaced people within my village and it is obvious that they don’t have enough to eat, not to talk of seedlings for farming. If the government does not provide seedlings to these internally displaced people, they will not farm, which will make next year the worst for the refugees,” he said.
“We have consumed the seedlings that we preserved for this year’s farming season due to the confrontations in Casamance. We were not doing any economic activity and we were left with no choice rather than to eat the little seedlings we preserved,” the Alkalo of Giffanga told this reporter.
Alkalo Gibba said the Gambian soldiers are no longer constantly patrolling the borders like before.
“Whenever we see strange things, we call them and they come, but they are not frequently coming here like before,” he said.
Kaddy Jammeh, an internally displaced resident of Jakin, said she is not thinking of going back unless the fighting stops. She opined that the Government has neglected Foni.
“I have a baby who is seven months old, but I miss going to health centre in the past three months because where I am living, there is no health centre,” she said.
She said it is sad to be internally displaced because it takes away one’s freedom and peace of mind.
“Our host families are trying their best because they continue to share the little they have with us,” she said.