By Momodou Jarju

ACE Communications which is a multimedia consultancy agency that conducted a tracer study aimed at identifying the employment status of the Gambia Songhai Initiative (GSI) alumni of 2015 to 2018, has asked the implementers to expand the project to all five regions of the country.

According to the multimedia consultancy agency, it has discovered that GSI’s horticultural and poultry products were sold at the Farafenni market and the eggs generated from the farm were adequate and met the demands of shops and outlets in nearby towns and villages at the country’s busiest transit point between Gambia and Senegal.

“Given the solid model and effect of the GSI produce on North Bank Region, it would be ideal for the GSI model to be replicated in each region of the country. This will adequately fulfil the cost and demands for specific produce while encouraging more youth participation in the training program. Moreover, it will directly improve the SDG Zero hunger and poverty eradication goals at regional levels,” the multimedia consultancy agency Executive, Fatim Badjie indicated.

Housed at Chamen in the North Bank Region, GSI is a technical vocational education and training initiative aimed at preparing graduates with skills and knowledge to enable them contribute to the inclusive growth of the agric. sector and provide employment. The study whose document has been validated by stakeholders two weeks ago, is designed to sustainably reduce unemployment, poverty and food insecurity through teaching agribusiness entrepreneurship, management, leadership and self-reliance skills. The tracer study revealed that the alumni they talked to, 36.2% of them are regularly employed currently; 17.5% are self-employed; 15% have occasional jobs to earn money and 7.5% are pursuing higher education. The study however said 26.2% of the alumni are unemployed and are still searching for jobs and opportunities to apply their skills. 

The tracer study sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is a replica of the Benin Songhai model. Highlighting other recommendations, ACE recommends that the compulsory savings model which is given to the alumni during their course of study, should have an increased amount since it is discovered that majority (92%) of the graduates who ventured into entrepreneurship, have used their savings to commence their own agribusiness. “Their savings have proven to be the only source of funds or support they have received and yet has not been sufficient,” ACE said.

ACE recommends the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools, machines and modern equipment which would advance the training program, stating access to ICT will encourage research and deeper learning while allowing students to connect and search opportunities.

“It was observed that a great portion of Chamen farms were not utilized perhaps with the introduction of more farming machines and equipment, the production levels and training will expand,” ACE revealed.

ACE urged the Government to encourage excursion for young Gambian students in primary and secondary levels, to visit the GSI farms so as to promote science and farming as a career path to food sufficiency issues.

The consultancy firm also recommended that the GSI project’s concept be promoted in the media and social media platforms which will promote its work and agri-business in the country; that it is paramount for the program to succeed by registering successful farmers after training so as to draw in youth to train in farming and take up occupations in agriculture. 

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