The Venezuelan ambassador to The Gambia, Her Excellency Lourdes Perez Martinez, on Wednesday visited her government's sponsored rice production project in Sapu and Brikama in the Central River Region (CRR).
The project that formed part of efforts of promoting food security, with a view to keeping hunger at bay, is in line with the most sought-after south-south cooperation, which is being championed by the presidents of the Republics of Venezuela and The Gambia. The initiative that started in 2009 also serves an avenue to enable Gambian farmers who studied in the Latin American country to put into practice the knowledge gained in the said farms to enhance production.
Speaking exclusively to the accompanying Daily Observer reporter at the project sites, Ambassador Martinez said the project is in line with the cooperation between Banjul and Caracas, noting that since their diplomatic mission was established here, they agreed on the onset to support the government of The Gambia in the area of food security.
The Venezuelan chief diplomat to The Gambia also saidthat the rice project is geared towards complementing the anti-hunger campaign dubbed back-to the-land, launched by the Gambian leader to ensure household food security across the country. Such a campaign, she underscored, is important and in line with her government's vision of eradicating poverty and hunger. She then thanked the officials on the fields for their hard work, and expressed hope that such a momentum will be continued.
Also speaking to the Daily Observer in Sapu, a senior agricultural officer in the region, Abdoulie Manjang, acknowledged the strong commitment of the Venezuelan ambassador to rice production in CRR, saying the support rendered by the Embassy has been reassuring. He expressed hope that the project will be strengthened to allow them expand and increase productivity in both lowland and upland areas.
While noting that Sapu is a good place for rice production, the senior agric officer however lamented some challenges confronting them. He cited issues of land preparation, lack of enough availability of farm inputs; such as fertilizer and quality seeds, as among the pressing challenges hindering a more successful production. He however reassured that they would continue to work hard accordingly to enhance food security in The Gambia.
Another agriculture officer, Landing Saidy Leigh, who also spoke to this reporter, explained that the project is as well about sharing knowledge, especially in trying to educate farmers on the Venezuelan rice production techniques. He went on to explain that the Venezuelan techniques in rice production include required input application, timely plowing and harrowing, as well as the application of herbicide to control weed.
He expressed hope that these Venezuelan techniques will be further shared with the Gambian farmers so as to enhance food security in The Gambia. Leigh also thanked the ambassador and her embassy for their effort in helping Gambian farmers to enhance their production.
A leader of the farmer group in the area, Baba Jula Kebbeh also thanked the ambassador for the assistance.