Gambia: Stakeholders Affirm Commitment to Tackle Disaster in Local Communities

Janjangbureh — Stakeholders under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently commenced a three-day training of trainers' workshop designed to arm them with knowledge on planning for community-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.

The synergy, held at the regional education conference hall in Janjangbureh CRR South, drew extension officers from the agriculture, forestry, fisheries sectors, as well as disaster risk management field technicians and practitioners across the country.

It was the second training under the capacity development component of emergency assistance, a project designed to restore the productive capacity of vulnerable households affected by 2012 severe weather condition in the Gambia. It could be recalled that the first training that was held in November, 2012, in Janjangbureh, targeted high and middle level officers in government and partner institutions on enhancing disaster risk management in agriculture.

Speaking at the occasion, the FAO assistant country representative, Mariatou Njie-Faal spoke extensively on the importance of the forum, saying the Sahel region has witnessed recurrent cycles of drought and floods. She lamented that this repeated cyclical phenomenon has significantly eroded the resilience of communities and households to shocks associated with either drought or flood and their inability to recover and restore their livelihoods.

To her, the agriculture sector,the main driver of economic growth, is no doubt, highly vulnerable to these hazards that have contributed significantly to low yields for major crops that are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. "The focus on households and communities cannot be overemphasised, as empirical evidence has shown that when disasters strike, the impact is seriously felt by the communities who are closer to the disaster event. It is for this reason that this particular training focuses on planning for community-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change," she remarked.

Faal-Njie described the training as an e-learning process that is highly interactive, participatory and practical in nature, noting that it is designed to provide participants with concrete procedures and steps for planning and implementing community-based disaster risk reduction as a necessary pre-requisite for adaptation to climate change.

The acting deputy director general of the Department of Agriculture, Falalo M. Tourayrevealed that the late, erratic and unevenly distributed rainfall during the 2011/12 cropping season led to a significant decline in agricultural production in The Gambia.

He further disclosed that food security from farmers' own production dropped from the usual 6-7 months, down to3-4 months on average after the harvest. He indicated that in some of the most affected areas, this was even below two months. As a result of this, according to him, farmers throughout the country experienced an early and protracted lean season.

"For a more sustainable and established self-reliant resilience, the business as usual curativeapproach to disasters such as humanitarian relief responses, improve sanitation, provide medical attention and shelter, prevent or minimise outbreaks of disease, support livelihoods

through cash-for-work, food-for-work programmes amongst others should be complemented and gradually replaced by preventive disaster risk reduction strategic approaches," he advised.

Deputising for the governor of the region, the assistant recordsofficer at the Governor's Office, Wassabo Darboe described the training as important and noted that the participants selected will derive maximum benefit from it in terms of understanding the basic concepts and methodology for ease of adaptation of materials at community level. He urged them to take up the training seriously.

A senior agricultural officer, Abdoulie Bojang, who also spoke at the occasion, said climate change is a threat to food security, thus underscoring that planning to combat, prevent and mitigate it, is a step in the right direction. He opined that climate change is a pertinent issue that needs clear and sound ideas to adaptation.

He stressed that the most vulnerable communities are referred to as disaster front and that as such any intervention should primarily focus on building and enhancing their capacities to cope through disaster risk reduction in order for them to absorb and withstand the negative impacts of climate change on their lives.

The training was coordinated and facilitated by Essa Khan and Hideki Kanamaru, consultants and trainers from FAO Rome and The Gambia respectively.

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