The UNDP African Human Development (AHD) Report on the theme, 'Toward a Food Security Future' was Tuesday officially launched by the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, at Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.
The report, which was earlier launched at the continental level in Nairobi, Kenya, has in itself core issues that call for more investment in agriculture with a view to ensure sustained growth and poverty reduction. It also highlighted that rapid economic progress in Africa has not brought food security for a substantial proportion of the population still gripped by hunger.
The overview of the report indicated that though hunger and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa have lasted too long, Africans are not consigned to a lifetime of food insecurity.
In her launching statement, the vice president pointed out that to address the chronic food crisis in the Sahel, there is need for a more innovative and comprehensive approach to build on both humanitarian and development assistance so as to increase resilience and promote long-term sustainability.
"This means moving beyond emergency preparedness and response to addressing the underlying risk factors and structural causes of vulnerability and food insecurity by building resilience which can break the cycle of chronic food and human insecurity in the Sahel region," she said.
While recognising the importance of providing food assistance, seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, VP Njie-Saidysaid "we must not lose sight of the importance of going beyond the emergency preparedness approach to longer term risk reduction by looking at the entire agricultural infrastructure and come up with prescriptive agricultural policies that are designed to fully support any major investments in agriculture and food insecurity".
Dilating on government's resolve to improve the lives of Gambians in this regard, shesaid the government under the leadership of President Jammeh places high premium on improving the quality of life of all Gambians through investing in people as sole beneficiaries and engines of development.
"As a result of the strategic leadership and sound macro-economic policies and programmes that are well managed with commitment and actions, significant gains in human development are registered in the country in recent years," she further stated.
The vice president, while acknowledging that agricultural policies and development have undergone changes since The Gambia became independent in 1965, pointed out that it is during the Second Republic that a more robust response to agricultural production began.
She said that the attainment of food security and diversification of the export base became overriding themes during this period. "These efforts were redoubled from 2003 onwards, when food security at the household national level became the focus of the agriculture sector and its contribution to reducing poverty, attainment of MDGs and economic growth in the country," she added.
She also stated that at the end of the first decade of the second millennium, The Gambia is poised to invigorate its efforts at achieving agricultural development and food security. She added that towards this end, the country has formulated a new agricultural and natural resource policy from 2009-2015, which is based on the national development blueprint, Vision 2020.
VP Njie-Saidy observed that the report came at a time when another severe food crisis is affecting the Sahel region in addition to millions of people on the other side of the continent, in the horn of Africa, who are affected by food shortage. She further observed that the report has shown that crop failure and a lack of food are not the only causes of famine and hunger in the continent, but more often the challenge and that is uneven access to food, which occurs when people lack the means to acquire it.
She then reminded the gathering that in order to advance efforts towards a food secure continent, the report provides an overview on the food solution in Africa and focus on four critical interrelated actions; notably boosting agricultural production, building resilience, and empowering the rural poor, among others.
For her part, Victoria Ginja, the WFP resident representative who spoke on behalf of the UNDP resident representative and resident coordinator of the UN System in The Gambia, dwelled on the importance of building resilience for food security.
According to her, building resilience for food security requires short and long-term strategies that need to be put in place lifting families out of cycles of poverty and hunger. "These strategies should be based on the principal factors that make household resilience to food security shocks be understood and then strengthened," she said.
She further dilated on the concept of food security and resilience, saying they are highly linked with the concept of human development approach in which people are at the forefront of development.
She added: "We must work together to meet the immediate needs of the population mostly affected by the drought and bring them on a sustainable path of recovery and strengthen their resilience for possible future."