CRR — The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Friday handed over 94 metric tons of rice seeds and 76.9 metric tones of maize to the government of The Gambia through the minister of Agriculture for onward distribution to farmers that were affected by last year's crop failure.
Handing over the inputs at a ceremony held at the Kuntaur seed store in Central River Region North, Dr. Babagana Ahmadou, FAO country representative described the event as important for the fact that it attempts to support farmers who suffered as a result of the 2011 crop failure.
He told the gathering that in response to the emergency declaration for support by the government last year, the FAO mobilised some resources through various sources notably the United Nation secretary general under the Office of the Humanitarian Response, and Central Emergency Response Fund, which has given them some resources to quickly procure the inputs to address the problems of farmers before the onset of the rainy season.
Ahmadou disclosed that in Kuntaur they have 90 metric tones of rice seeds under the Central Emergency Response Fund, four metric tones of rice which came under the Programme of Food Security Through Commercialisation of Agriculture, 74.5 metric tones of maize under the Central Emergency Relief Fund, and 2.4 metric tones of maize under the Programme of Food Security Through Commercialisation of Agriculture.
"We are very pleased to hand over these inputs for onward distribution to farmers. This is the first phase of the distribution," he said, while assuring of FAO's continuous partnership in addressing the challenges confronting farmers. He also assured that FAO's doors are always open, adding that despite the embargo of seeds crossing borders they will try all they can to bring groundnut seeds to the country before the onset of the farming season.
Receiving the inputs on behalf of the government and Gambian farmers, Solomon Owen, the minister of Agriculture on behalf of the National Disaster Management Agency and the National Food Security Council headed by the vice president, thanked FAO for the generous intervention to alleviate the plight of the farmers who suffered from last year's crop failure. He said seed is very critical to the recovery of agricultural production, and that support from anyone is welcome.
Minister Owens also recalled that when the crisis was declared, FAO was the first to respond in the form of assisting in mitigating the impact of the crisis on farmers and the cropping season. "It is not only in this time of crisis, but FAO is the biggest partner to agricultural sector in this country," he said.
He then appealed to farmers to cultivate as much maize as they can, since the market will be available for maize this year. He concluded by thanking the FAO country rep for his unflinching support to the government.
Ganyie Touray, the governor of Central River Region, thanked FAO for the intervention, describing it as timely. He appealed to farmers not to sell the seeds, stressing that it is meant for them to till the land.
For his part, Dr. Sait Drammeh, director general of Agriculture thanked the FAO for always being beside government at any time. He acknowledged that the intervention will greatly help farmers in the upcoming farming season.
Visit to Silos
On the sideline of the presentation, Minister Owens and Dr Babagana Ahmadou also visited the silos under construction at the Kuntaur Regional Agricultural Directorate. The initiative, said to be the brainchild of the Gambian leader and supported by FAO, will help in curbing post-harvest losses by farmers.
Speaking at theone of the sites , Governor Touray noted that farmers do very well on the farms but when it comes to harvesting, they lose 30% or 40% of their produce. He explained that the silos can help farmers meet the food self-sufficiency that they are yearning for.
Dr. Sait Drammeh said the visit was meant to show the minister an effort that emanated from the president, adding that silos have worked well in many parts of the world. He expressed hope that by 31st December when the pilot project elapses, they would have reached the targeted number of silos.