The 7th Annual Regional Forum of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded projects is currently underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi with the broad spectrum of stakeholders looking at the result-based management for sustaining rural poverty reduction; the lessons learned and the challenges.
The four-day synergy that brought together IFAD officials from the West and Central Africa region, government ministers, development partners, as well as members of the non-governmental Organisation (NGO) community, seeks to strengthen the knowledge-base for effective project delivery, renew trust and relationship, and share commitment, amongst others.
The international forum also serves as an important knowledge-sharing event, which enables IFAD-funded projects and development partners from the region to meet, network and share experiences and review performances in improving the lives of the rural poor.
Addressing the gathering, the minister of Agriculture, Solomon Owens, harped on the importance of the forum, and reminded the participants of the Gambia government's recognition of the fruitful partnership and assistance provided by IFAD to the rural farmers in the country since 1982. "IFAD has financed nine supported projects and programmes amounting to US$53.7M, equivalent to more than 1.6 Billion dalasis, which has directly benefitted over 126,000 rural households," he disclosed.
The Agriculture minister went on to assert that the IFAD's ongoing three projects in the country - the Participatory Integrated Watershed Development Project (PIWAMP), Livestock and Horticulture Development Project (LHDP), and the Rural Finance Project (RFP) - are all focusing on the increased agricultural productivity, production and income of rural women and youth through appropriate land and water management technologies, improved vegetable and livestock schemes and enhanced access to much needed financial support.
Minister Owens however stressed that monitoring and evaluation are key in sustaining the success of a project, as well as adequate empowerment of beneficiaries to actively participate in result and evidence-based systems. "This will ensure that critical masses are met and increasing the viability of the agricultural sector in the long-term," he said.
IFAD, according to Minister Owens, is the first development partner of the government to explicitly support the implementation of the Gambia National Agriculture Investment Plan (GNAIP), which he explained, is the operational framework for agriculture and natural resources (ANR). He thanked IFAD on behalf of the government for choosing the Gambia to host this year's event.
Speaking earlier, the IFAD's regional director for West and Central Africa, Ides de Willebois, told the gathering that their focus is on the rural finance, women and youth empowerment, rice development, producer's organisations, watershed, private sector development, as well as land tenure issues.
He disclosed that the institution is currently dealing with 53 projects in 23 countries from the West and Central Africa, totaling US$990.5M of IFAD financing. Despite the progress registered by IFAD on poverty reduction in The Gambia, he posited, the country is still burdened with widespread and persistent rural poverty particularly among women and youth.
For the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident coordinator in The Gambia, Abdou Touray, IFAD should be commended for its interventions in reducing poverty rate in the region.