How can anyone forget Sang Mendy? This young poultry farmer stole the show at the launch of The Gambia’s Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR) report in Banjul this September.
“In school when the teacher asked what each of us wanted to become, I would say that I wanted to become a farmer. And everyone would laugh at me,” Sang said. “Today, I make money after I finished school. Not all of my school mates do,” he told me after the event.
National Zero Hunger Strategic Reviews (ZHSR) carried out under the leadership of governments and their partners help to establish a hunger baseline, determine gaps in the national food security and nutrition response and identify priority actions needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) that seeks to end hunger by 2030.
The events to launch these reports are often filled with long, technical speeches and presentations. Sang’s testimony, full of good humor and colorful anecdotes, was a whiff of freshness.
In a simple and direct way, he told everyone present about how he used roughly US$ 200 from his brother to build a small poultry business that now supplies eggs to all stores in his village.
It drew admiration and applause from the dignitaries from government, the United Nations system, diplomatic corps, donor partners and media who had gathered for the ceremony chaired by the Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of the Gambia, Ousainu Darboe.
It also brought in a dose of reality about what has been done and what still needs to be achieved.
There is a lack of interest in agriculture among youth in The Gambia while there is a sharp increase in migration from rural areas to towns and from towns to Europe, according to the ZHSR report. It recommends that the development of entrepreneurship and skills among youths in priority areas including agriculture and fisheries. The report also recommends the strengthening of advocacy programs that would encourage youth interest in what is a key area in helping The Gambia achieve zero hunger by 2030.
“…ending hunger in The Gambia by 2030 will undoubtedly require the active participation of the youth population who are the future of the nation,” Vice President Darboe said in the foreword of the ZHSR report. “In a country where a disproportionate number of young people risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean in search for a better life, addressing the issue of migration cannot be overemphasized.”
Sang Mendy has not migrated. Not even from his village to the capital Banjul. He joked about not having the most modern phone but also indicated how he was able to apply to an online support scheme with the help of his brother, which helped him to obtain support from the government-run Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP). In that single brush, he demonstrated the need for government to invest in young people.
The story of how he is making money each day by supplying 16 crates of eggs is also useful advocacy tool. But one Sang Mendy does not make a forest of young farmers. The Gambia needs more of them to help ensure that people have a diverse diet, with nutritious food and that no one goes hungry.
“I want my fellow youths to follow my footsteps. Because not all youths can be in the office. Some have to be in the farm, some have to be in the office…I’m also pleading to the government to help youths… I don’t want to stop at 500 (layers). It’s a small number…I want to go to 5000, even 15,000 if I have the help,” Sang said.
The findings of Zero Hunger Strategic Reviews inform the plans of national and international stakeholders, including the World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies. WFP, UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported the Government in producing the review.
For WFP, these findings that provide a comprehensive analysis of the challenges the country faces in efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition are serving its country strategic planning process.
Learn more about WFP’s work in The Gambia