The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, who recently led a nine-member delegation to Rome, Italy to negotiate for the US$34M National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (NEMA) on behalf of the government and people of The Gambia, has described the outcome as successful.
Mod K. Ceesay, who was speaking recently during an interview with reporters, further remarked that the negotiation went "well" and that the background work was done before through an eight-month intensive consultative and participatory design process that was mounted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The overall goal of the Nema project is to sustainably increase food security and raise income of smallholders, particularly rural women and youth, by improving rice and vegetable production through land and water management practices.
Deputy Permanent Secretary Ceesay went further to assert that the design mission led by the country programme manager of IFAD, Moses Abukari, for eight months, gave both the government and IFAD the opportunity to identify key components of the project, which he added, are aligned to the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan (GNAIP) and the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE).
"We were basically in Rome to fine-tune some of what we have already mutually agreed on at the appraisal stage of the project," Ceesay stated. He added that at the negotiation, there were few sticking points as partners to convince each other, but that at the end of the day, they reached mutually agreed positions.
The Nema project, he informed, is one of the biggest interventions of IFAD in The Gambia, saying a "US$34M is not a small project - much bigger than the sum total of the three IFAD financed on-going projects." This, Ceesay underscored, demonstrates a strong paradigm shift on the part of IFAD in programme designing and focus on result based management approach to development.
The Finance and Economic Affairs DPS disclosed that IFAD has from 1982 to date pumped hundreds of millions of dollars to bankroll nine projects through loans and grants. "Honestly, IFAD is one of our most reliable and beneficial partners, and their intervention areas have been supporting rural farmers globally including The Gambia," he acknowledged.
"The Gambia," Ceesay added, "depends heavily on agriculture as it constitutes 70 percent of the employment sector, particularly for youth and women, and is contributing nearly 15% of GDP of the Gambian economy."
For the project coordinator of the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), Momodou Gassama, the NEMA project is targeting all the six agricultural regions in the country, with a focus on women and youth to enable them to participate more actively in development initiatives.
Meanwhile, the officials who formed the delegation to Rome included coordinators of the IFAD's three project - Rural Finance Project (RFP), Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), Livestock and Horticulture Development Project (LHDP), amongst others.
Meanwhile, it has been brought to our attention that the right acronym for the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project is NEMA and not NALWMD as reported in one of the stories of our Monday edition captioned: "Negotiations for NALWMD project sealed."