Crr — The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently ended a three-day training programme for high and middle level officers in government and partner institutions on capacity enhancement and institutional analysis for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and management in agriculture.
In his opening remarks on behalf of the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Musa Humma, the director general of Agriculture, explained that the late, erratic and unevenly distributed rainfall during the 2011/12 cropping season led to a significant decline and low quality of agricultural production in The Gambia. He disclosed that the overall crop production dropped by 62% compared to 2010 and by 50% compared to the 5-year average.
"Compared to last year which was particularly affected, the production of key food and cash crops such as rice stands at (74%), millet (-54%) and groundnut (-64%). Even the Livestock grazing and availability of pastures was also drastically affected. Food security from farmers own production dropped from usual 6-7 months, down to average 3-4 months after the harvest, and in some of the most affected areas it was even below 2 months," he added.
As a result, he said, farmers throughout the country experienced an early and protracted lean season. He went on to disclose that of the 40 rural districts in The Gambia, 19 are considered most affected by the crop failure with a total population of 428,000, including 73,802 children under the age of 5.
In his statement, the FAO country representative, Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, said the 2011/2012 crop failure in The Gambia has had a negative impact on livelihoods especially of vulnerable farming households affected by the severe crop failure. He noted that this situation severely affected one of the main drivers of economic growth and that's the agricultural sector, which accounts for 29% of GDP.
According to him, the agric sector's share of the country's total export stood at 70% in 2009, and thus constituting a major source of foreign exchange earnings for the country. He said according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, the agricultural sector is accounted for being one of the major drivers of recent economic growth, averaging 6.5% in 2008-2011. "This therefore is a clear testimony of the critical role of the agriculture sector in the economic development of the country and its people," he remarked.
He pointed out that the severe crop failure led to food crisis in all the countries of the Sahel region, while reiterating that the crop failure was due mainly to unevenly distributed and erratic rainfall during the 2011 rainy season with an overall deficit of 10% below normal and 37% below 2010 levels. He said the rain deficit led to significant decrease for major crops compared to 2010-2011 agricultural season, adding that the severity of crop failure and attendant food crisis were and still compounded by conflicts in the sub-region and beyond.
The FAO country rep went on to project that the current volatile and precarious security situation in Sahel may further aggravate the crisis and make it difficult for humanitarian aid agencies to reach out to those most in need of emergency assistance and speedy recovery.
The deputy governor of CRR, Malang Saibo Camara said the agricultural sector is no doubt highly vulnerable to various risk factors and unless these risk factors are addressed people will always be responding to crisis. He stated that Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) measures are designed to protect livelihoods and the assets of communities and individuals from the impact of hazards.
Speaking on behalf of the executive director of TANGO, Kebba Barrow dilated extensively on the active role that NGOs play in disaster risk reduction. The occasion was chaired by Essa Khan, a consultant.