LIFE OF THE RURAL PEOPLE3 people in the rural area in terms of how they are facilitating or hindering their development. The column has been highlighting the situation of the Rural Women in terms of poverty, drudgery in the absence of labour saving devices,their lack of control and ownership of land which is key to any agricultural activities and so on. It was stated in previous editions that women risk their health in order to put bread on the table and that they work under scotching sun, without sunscreen, working on the farm, garden, processing food, fetching water or doing laundry. With no employment opportunities in the Rural Gambia other than the farm, poverty is taking a dramatic toll as women lack control and ownership of the key factor of agricultural production which is land. In this edition, we shall bring to the attention of our readers the concerns of the rural people with regard to the exploitation they are subjected to, which compounds their poverty and hardship. To begin, it is apt to state that research has shown that poverty is rife in the rural area and that over sixty percent of rural families live on incomes below the designated poverty line. Based on this, it is imperative that any programme aimed at improving the standard of living and long-term economic stability in the rural area should hinge itself on the premise of further developing and sustaining agriculture, the resource base from which rural incomes are derived as well as establishing credit facilities where rural people can access funds that do not attract unbearable interest rates. During my visit to the rural area, the people explained that it will be very difficult to eradicate the poverty of the rural people without establishing a cooperative marketing Board that will not only purchase the produce of the rural people but give them sub loan during the lean period which is July to October. According to Burama Manjang, with no employment opportunities in the Rural Gambia other than the farm, poverty is taking a dramatic toll on the rural dwellers because they are exploited by middlemen and local traders during lean period. When asked to explain, he indicated that middlemen and local traders will give them cash which they will pay back when they harvest their produce at prices that are far below the normal market prices for the produce. For example, the middlemen give them D7 per Kilogram of millet while in the market, a kilogram of millet is sold for D12. For groundnut, they give them D500 per bag when they harvest, while the market price is D1,200. “This practice is what is compounding our poverty in the rural area,” Burama Manjang lamented. Mariama Jallow a rural dweller asserted that the previous practice of the Gambia Cooperative Union in which rural people sell their produce to Union and received loans from the Union during the lean period, freed them from the trappings of the middlemen. She called on Government to come up with such strategies to mitigate the main cause of their poverty.]]>