Gambia: Food Security Through Commercialisation of Agriculture Seminar Held

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Tuesday held a one-day seminar on Food Security through Commercialisation of Agriculture (FSCA) project at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

The Food Security through Commercialisation of Agriculture (FSCA) project operates using the One Village One Project (OVOP) approach referred to as One Satee One Product (OSOP) in Gambia. The concept intends to achieve economic development by producing quality crops, adding value through processing, quality control, packaging and marketing.

The OVOP concept and approach empowers communities to generate income and wealth through resources mobilisation to produce valued added goods and services that are marketable . The approach has been successfully implemented in Asia (Japan and Thailand) and some African countries (Malawi through the use of specific materials and human resources of small communities to develop distinct products which are effectively marketed).

The seminar was meant to increase the awareness and knowledge of participants on the OSOP concept and practices and to enhance collaboration and working relationship among stakeholders towards achieving the purpose of the OSOP concept.

Mariatou Njie, the assistant FAO representative, disclosed that the One Village One Product (OVOP) movement is a Japanese regional development programme. She said that it began in 1979 when the then Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu advocated the programme. She explained that communities selectively produce goods with high added value, noting that one village produces one competitive and staple product as a business to gain sales revenue to improve the standard of living for the residents of that village.

The FAO assistant representative further explained that there are three principles in the OVOP movement and they are; creation of globally acceptable products/services based on local resources, self-reliance and creativity, and human resources development."The success of any OVOP product/service largely depends on its quality, developed and improved by local people themselves. "After the success of OVOP Japan, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) there are 36 countries now adapting and implementing OVOP model," she disclosed.

Madam Njie said that FAO appreciates that the concept of 'One Village One Product' plays an important role in promoting the rural economic growth, improving the livelihood of the people and contributing to poverty reduction. She revealed that in The Gambia,the OVOP strategy is adopted to achieve the goal and objectives of the project, adding that the implementation of the OSOP concept as it is called in The Gambia started in 2010 with 40 communities selectively producing crops with high added value.

Madam Njie also revealed that the objectives of the OVOP include; promoting local products to improve the standard of living of people, generating employment opportunities and increasing household income, increasing value-added to home grown produce through processing, improving quality and package, promoting market linkages between products and services at village level and domestic and export markets and contributing to the prevention of migration.

The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Asheme Cole, said the decision to come together to discuss practical strategies that can lead to national food security is regarded by the Ministry as an exemplary initiative. He reminded the gathering that the government of the Gambia has echoed in a number of forums, the importance of inclusiveness and authentic participation of farmers in improving the performance of the agricultural sector.

DPS Cole noted that it has promoted and encouraged people to have self-confidence in producing good quality products for consumption and supply the domestic and international markets. "Although, the OVOP is in its infant stage in The Gambia, we recognise its potentials to contribute significantly to eradicating poverty by promoting creativity and self-confidence of rural people," he affirmed.

He urged all the actors in the public and private sectors to explore the opportunities provided by the adoption of the OVOP. According to him, currently, the nation is losing a significant amount of revenue due to the import of foreign goods such as consumer goods, souvenirs, and products of fruits and vegetables, to supply the local markets.

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