Senior Management of Agriculture concludes 5-Day Joint Field Assessment Tour
By Sulayman Waan
In a bid to accelerate efforts aimed at developing a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable agricultural system in The Gambia, the senior management of Agriculture has concluded a five-day joint assessment tour of projects sites across the seven agricultural regions of the country.
Mr. Mod Secka, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture led the team which comprised the Coordinator of the CPCU under his Ministry, Projects Directors, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialists, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Director General of the Gambia Livestock Marketing Agency, senior staff of NARI, the Department of Livestock Services and the National Seed Secretariat.
From the 22nd to 26th September 2023, the team visited about 28 intervention sites of the six active agricultural projects under the Central Project Coordinating Unit (CPCU), a body responsible for overseeing the implementation of all agricultural projects in the Gambia.
These active projects include The Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV), Small Ruminant Production Enhancement Project (SRPEP); The Resilience of Organizations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Project (ROOTS); The Rice Value Chain Transformation Programme (RVCTP); The Gambia Agriculture and Food Security Project and Regional Rice Value Chain Development Project (RRVCDP).
The sites visited include groundnut, maize, cowpea and rice fields cultivated through inputs support from these project; vegetable gardens; livestock watering facilities; Wassu Slaughter House; Foundation Rice Seed production in Sapu; Sapu Research Centre; Rehabilitated Seed Warehouse in Sapu; lowlands including Korean-NARI -Direct- Seeded Sice Demo Plots; Poultry Schemes and Small Ruminant farmers and community pasture fields and, cold store facility in Soma.
Speaking at the various sites after listening to the projects beneficiaries and implementing partners, Mr. Mod A.K Secka, Permanent Secretary, expressed optimism of a successful rainy season. He observed that the different crops cultivated are performing so far.
PS Secka described the visit as significant to his ministry of Agriculture, saying it has enabled officials to interact with the project beneficiaries and have gathered first-hand information on the cropping situation as well as general projects implementation status.
He said: “This field monitoring mission is significant because when you deal with farmers you do not have to sit at the office, rather you should interact with them to see what is happening and also know the challenges. That will inform you when you are making decisions on behalf of farmers”.
He advised farmers to reserve seeds to ensure they are seeds secure for the next cropping season. PS Secka noted that these agricultural projects are designed to serve farmers for a specific period. He therefore encouraged the farmers to take ownership of the interventions and put in place sound sustainability mechanisms including adopting the culture of savings and the establishment viable cooperatives so that they can continue with their farming activies after the project support has phased out. This, he said, will ensure sustainability of interventions and well as sustained food security and increased socio-economic growth.
Speaking further, he said President Barrow’s recent pronouncement on Rice Self-sufficiency by 2030 is achievable. “We have seen NERICA rice in particular is performing very well in the upland ecology on a small scale. Therefore, with commitment and concerted efforts in promoting NERICA and salt tolerant varieties, we can significantly increase rice production and yields and thus help reduce our high dependency on imported rice which is our staple food,” he said.
PS Secka also explained that the government is currently engaging the private sector to invest massively in rice production. He said this initiative with a couple of current rice value chain projects and farmers’ effort in rice production can help the country to produce rice for commercialization.
He assured that the Gambia government is committed to supporting and empowering Gambian farmers to attain their aspirations. He tasked project directors to accelerate their support and provide rice farmers with light ploughing equipment and harvesters to increase production and to address post-harvest losses.
Abdoulie Touray, Coordinator for of CPCU and the GIRAV project under the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) expressed satisfaction with the performance of the field crops and implementation status of other project activities in the field across the country. These include the poultry, small ruminant and garden projects. He noted that all these intervention are part of government’s efforts to transform agriculture from subsistence to commercial venture to create jobs, wealth and shared prosperity.
“Generally we are impressed with what we have seen across the country,” he said. The rainy season pattern is very good. We have experienced very little dry spell with minor incident of Fall Armyworm infestation reported. We have seen communities’ and individual poultry farms producing lots of eggs but they only complain about the market and access to poultry feed,” he said.
Musa M Humma, Director General, Department of Agriculture also described this year’s rainy season as “Promising”. He attributed the crops performance to the collective contribution of all stakeholders. He noted that seeds were provided on time, fertilizer too was made availability and sold at a subsidized cost and farmers too have put the support in to good use.
DG Humma further reaffirmed government’s commitment to develop all sectors of agriculture in the Gambia. However, he advised farmers to reserve seeds for the next cropping season to ensure sustainability in the sector.
Alhagie Mot Touray, a prominent farmer at Makka Farafenni in the North Bank Region commended the ministry of agriculture and the donors for providing farmers with seeds and fertilizer on time. He said the GIRAV project in particular has helped increase maize production and productivity in the community.
He used the opportunity to make a passionate plea for a tractor and threshing machines for the community. He lamented that lack of access to ploughing and threshing services is hampering their farming and also making the country spend a lot of money to hire service providers in neighbouring Senegal and thus reaping the country off the much needed foreing exchange. He urged the government to double its efforts and provide farmers with advanced farming machines such as tractors and treshing machines.
Amie Secka, President of Sinchu Alhagie Women Poultry Scheme at Sinchu Alagie in Niamina East CRR South also commended the GAFSP for supporting their poultry farm. She noted that the project has provided them with 500 chicks and trained them on poultry management.