Gambian cashew exporter partners with returnees

Farimang Manneh, the CEO of a leading cashew nut export company in The Gambia, is using his success in entrepreneurship to set up a scheme to motivate the country’s returning migrants to engage in cashew production and exportation. 

“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 distributed aid packages to a group of 168 returnees from Libya.

Manneh, who returned home five years ago after living in Europe for 33 years, established a cashew nut exporting firm, Mand M trading. Additionally, he owns a hotel that employs locals in the tourism sector.

Being a former migrant to Europe himself, Manneh has a deep understanding of the struggle undocumented migrants face. Today, as a leading exporter of cashew nuts to Vietnam and India, Manneh has drawn on his own experience and established a charity to inspire young people to believe they can make it in The Gambia, without having to risk their lives to reach Europe.

“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 to it… I know this because I was a youth over 30 years ago,” Manneh said. 

Through the Humanitarian Opportunity for People Empowerment (HOPE) charity, Manneh and some of his colleagues are now seeking to empower youths, particularly returning migrants, by giving them a lifeline to earn a decent living.

The charitable organisation is now engaging in cashew cultivation with Gambian farmland owners. The charity supports and encourages returnees to go into farming, by providing them with all the necessary tools and guidance to grow cashews. In return, the charity buys the harvest from them.

Many irregular migrants come from land-owning families, and many sell their properties to fund journeys to Europe.

Mr. Manneh explained the potential for cashew production to drive youths out of poverty. “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,” he said.

Manneh has already absorbed some returnees from Libya to work as employees at his hotel. “This is an example of hope we are giving them,” he explained.

Seven percent of migrants who arrived in Libya in 2016 were Gambians, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and tens of thousands have risked their lives to reach Europe.  

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Gambian government launched the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Banjul a year ago. The D100 million project was meant to help 1,500 returning Gambian migrants reintegrate into their communities of origin.

According to the IOM Gambia office, since January of this year, more than 3,000 Gambian migrants have been repatriated from Libya.

Charitably minded people like Mr. Manneh and his NGO are creating private initiatives to help alleviate the country’s migration crisis. 

Mr. Manneh said he saw himself in the youths who are desperately trying to reach Europe by any means necessary. “In those days, nothing inspired me more than going to Europe and making it from there. After living there for 33 years, I now know… there is nothing there.” 

TMP – 09/08/2018

Photo: Gambia horticulture workers peeling cashew nuts