The Methodist Mission Agricultural Programme (MMAP) Thursday inaugurated a new mango processing facility at its garden in Brikama Nyambai.
The project, funded through the support of the Japanese government, is worth 58, 637 Euros equivalent to D2, 220,200 million.
It is designed to include the construction of a processing facility for horticultural produce and the provision of food preservation equipment.
The facility will also provide skills training in food preservation for women and young people.
In her keynote address, Naffie Barry, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, said the project was conceived due to the need to reduce the post-harvest losses of locally grown fruits. It is also meant to increase the income that small holder farmers generate from their horticultural production activities.
She remarked that post-harvest losses have been recognised as a major challenge in the development of the horticulture sub-sector and minimising it would go a long way in addressing poverty.
PS Barry further went on to state that the goals of the project fits well in the government's PAGE in the attainment of the MDGs and the Vision 2020. She added that for a broad-based growth where the poor would enjoy a significant share, agriculture must not only lead the economic growth, but must be taken seriously to lead the fight against poverty.
She continued: "As policymakers and industry leaders, we must therefore consider the competitiveness of the entire agro-value chain. The combined effects of employment gains and food security through improved agro-industry competitiveness can be an important strategy for reducing the overall poverty within the country."
She thanked the Methodist Mission and the Japanese government for the project, assuring them of her ministry's support at all times.
Malcolm Clark, the former chairman of the Methodist Mission Agricultural Programme, said the project is designed to provide food preservation for women and youths with the goal of reducing post-harvest losses of mangoes. "We are pleased that the Japanese government is committed to assist in that direction," he said.
Akiko Takano, first secretary at the Japanese Embassy in Dakar, explained that the project came into being after the Japanese ambassador and the MMAP chairman signed the agreement in March 2010. She noted that Mango is a product that is largely wasted due to the lack of techniques to preserve it, saying "this centre is expected to process about 10 to 15 tons every year".
She expressed gratitude to the Methodist Mission team for its hard work, adding that the inauguration of the facility marks a great success in the relations between the Mission and Japan.
Mariama Ashcroft, the director of the Methodist Mission Agricultural Programme (MMAP), thanked the government of The Gambia for the support. She also commended the government of Japan through her Dakar Embassy for assisting them in the realisation of the facility.