Indian Businesses Involved In The Processing Of Cashew Nuts For Export Have Been Exposing Gambian Women To Work Under Extremely Hot Weather Without Any Protection. They are not only spending long hours in the sun, but have to do their work at snail-pace while squatting on hot concrete floors.
Women hired to pick nuts would spent Eight Hours under the Intense heat without any Protection
Gambian women working in the scourging sun are at risk of heat exhaustion, skin cancer and sun damage to the eye. They are paid D100 per day working during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day (generally between 9.00 a.m. and 4 p.m.) without face mask or any protection from long term exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and heat exhaustion as a result of excessive sweating.
Indian businesses have been involved in the cashew trade since the era of Yaya Jammeh. They dominate the industry and control the entire cashew process from Guinea Bissau to Gambia forming solid synergy in the collection and shipping of the nuts. The other processes which include steam roasting, shell cutting and pealing are done outside the country which doesn’t augur well for our government’s policy of adding value to the raw materials produce in the country.
Talking to the owner of this particular business located just at the end of Denton Bridge going to Banjul while sitting in his air-conditioned office ten meters from where the women in the sun, he remarked sarcastically that the women doing this tedious job of separating the oily nuts from the good ones enjoyed doing their job in the sun as the nuts need sunlight to be processed. When reminded about the dangers of exposing these people to elevated body temperature with these with high blood pressure which can cause death or permanent disability. He was totally indifferent to the health risks these people are facing.
The exportation of unprocessed cashew nuts will benefit the Indian exporters more than what government is getting from taxes. These nuts could be sent back in this country packaged and marked ‘made in India’ and displayed on the shelves of many of our mini-markets and supermarkets owned by Indians.
The cashew nuts
To echo the concerns of many Gambian businessmen, this Government must be proactive in making sure the exploitation of our material and human resources are controlled as well as protecting the rights of those women spending all their daily working lives picking nuts under the scourging heat for foreign-owned businesses whose economic contributions to the country is negligible.
The cashew business is a lucrative business to be monopolized by Indians. Government officials responsible for issuing trade licenses, trade facilitation and expansion should stop paying lip service to the clarion call to help Gambian businesses to grow. As the old aphorism has it, “charity begins at home.”
Written By Morro Gaye