Bio-digester technology could help tackle illegal migration

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Bio-digester technology could provide the answer to the illegal migration of Gambian youths to Europe.

Previous sensitisation campaigns and EU-funded projects meant to bring an end to the phenomenon have not fully succeeded in putting a complete stop to it.

Many people believe that skills acquisition and other projects have failed to bring about a complete stop to illegal migration due mainly to earning power. There have been instances when vocational training was provided only for the beneficiaries of such training to later migrate to Europe. Provision of micro-loans to young people to enable them set up businesses have also sometimes proved counter-productive, with the money used by the recipients to fund the journey to Europe via North Africa. Some years ago the Gambian authorities provided fishing boats to some youths to enable them earn a decent living, only for them to later sell the boats and travel with the money.

Muhammadu Drammeh, CEO of Positive Action Foundation West Africa (PAFWA), believes that skill training has not worked because the trades are saturated. He said: “For example, a returned or aspiring migrant trained as a welder has to face competition from other already established and experienced welders. The result is that what that individual earns is not enough to enable him help his family and live a decent life and motivate him to remain at home. There is also this tendency to compare whatever he earns with what his compatriots based in Europe are earning, whether he will be able to do something near to what they are doing for their families; the pressure is high.”

The PAFWA CEO believes bio-digester technology will succeed in reducing illegal migration in a way other programmes were unable to. He said bio-digester technology, if properly utilised in its entirety in The Gambia, will enable youths earn enough money and attain a standard of living that will make them stay at home rather than embarking on a perilous journey to Europe.

Drammeh, who lived in Canada for many years before returning home, has become an inspiration to many young Gambians, as he has been at the forefront of the campaign to sensitise youths on the demerits of irregular migration and urging them to avail themselves of the economic opportunities at home.  

He wants to convince Gambians that bio-digester technology is more than a new fanciful fangled notion, as it addresses the factors that drive illegal migration which are poverty, youth unemployment, climate change and rapid urbanisation.

His words: “What makes bio-digester so appealing is that it addresses the issue of earning power. Masons and young men trained to master bio-digester construction will become high income earners by Gambian standards. The fee to construct one bio-digester tank is D30 000 (about US$600). This means that an average youth trained on how to build bio-digester tanks can now earn near to what most of his peers earn in Europe, take care of their families etc.”

It is not only through boosting the earning power of young people that bio-digester will help end illegal migration. It promises to stimulate an agricultural revolution in Gambia. Many experts opine that agriculture, agro-processing and agri-business is the key to solving the problem of illegal migration of young Africans to Europe.

Drammeh, whose Foundation plans to run an agricultural project to empower returned migrants, explains that slurry from bio-digester tanks known as humanure is a rich fertilizer. In addition, it converts manure and organic household waste into a clean fuel that can be used for cooking. This is good news for the environment in Gambia, where more than 95% of the population relies on wood and charcoal for cooking. It will also help to preserve forested areas and natural vegetation.

About Bio-Digester Technology

Bio-digester is an innovative technology that disposes human waste in an eco-friendly manner. It simply means having a bio-digester tank in compounds/houses instead of the conventional septic tank/cesspit that is presently in vogue in Gambia. Bio-digester technology makes it possible for waste from toilets to be sent to a giant underground bio-digester tank where anaerobic digestion takes place (Bacterial Bio-digredation). This process completely breaks down organic matter or black water into gases and water. The gases produced are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen. Methane gas produced in the tanks can be used for different purposes, including firing up gas stoves and generating electricity while the leftovers (popularly called Humanure or ‘Human manure’) can be used for gardening and farming.

Bio-digester Technology is now popular in many countries of the World including Africa.

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