The National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (NEMA) was Tuesday officially launched by the minister of Agriculture, Solomon Owens, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The project is a US$34 Million grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Gambia Government, and other partners including the private sector.
NEMA is a seven-year project that would build on the achievements and experience of the earlier IFAD-supported projects in the same sector, including the three ongoing projects; ie, the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), with AfDB and GEF, which will end in 2014; the Rural Finance Project (RFP), which will end in 2014; and the Livestock and Horticulture Development Programme (LHDP), which will also finish in 2015.
The project will address IFAD's strategic objectives of assisting poor rural women and men to develop their skills and organisations to take advantage of: (i) improved agricultural technologies and effective production services; (ii) competitive agricultural input and produce markets; (iii) a range of financial services; and (iv) rural off-farm employment and enterprise development opportunities, which will increase their income and benefit the rural economy in general. The Project will support The Gambia Government's strategic vision for growth and development through strengthening the agricultural sector. It aims to contribute to the overall goal of reducing poverty among rural women and youth.
In his keynote address, Solomon Owens, the minister of Agriculture, said that with the financing of the project at a tune of US$64,000 and IFAD contributing half of the amount, will be key in the execution of the Gambia National Agriculture Investment Plan (GNAIP). He described the GNAIP as the medium-term development framework for the agriculture and natural resources sector of The Gambia.
Minister Owens explained that the objectives of NEMA are to increase farm productivity, increase employment generation, and reduce food importation, among others.
He said that during the past 18 years under the leadership of President Jammeh, agriculture has made tremendous strides to become an area of significant economic activity, out of which several types of vibrant, small agro-enterprises have evolved.
He assured that the Gambia government will continue to explore various other innovations which could lead to economic growth and further employment for the rural populace. He commended IFAD for its continued support for the rural poor.
For his part, Moses Abubacar, IFAD's country programme manager, disclosed that IFAD was established in the 1970s to finance agricultural and rural development programmes in developing member countries through loans and grants. IFAD's investments, he said, focuses on smallholders who constitute the majority of producers in the global food chain. He added that IFAD's mission is to enable the rural poor. He emphasised that IFAD's active partnership with the government and people of The Gambia started more than 30 years ago with the famous Jahaly-Pacharr smallholder project.
He further stated that NEMA aims to support the government targeting about 23,000 households in all the six agricultural regional directorates.
He said the project's objective is to improve productivity based on sustainable land and water management practices. The total estimated project cost is about US$65 million.
Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, the FAO country representative, lamented that about 1.4 billion people still live in abject poverty, despite the numerous national and global efforts during the past years on the target of the Millennium Development Goals, which aims to decrease extreme poverty by one-half by the year 2015. He noted that as of 2011, the poorest 40 percent of the world's population earn five percent of global income while the richest 20 percent earn three-quarters of the world's income.
Ebrima Jawara, project coordinator of the Central Processing Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, revealed that the West African Rural Foundation (WARF) will contribute to the organisation of the workshop. He said the NEMA project has taken an integrated approach to the development of both rice and vegetable value chains, adding that it is financed by a grant from IFAD, the government of The Gambia, Islamic Development Bank, financial service providers and other partners including private sector off-takers and the beneficiaries.
"NEMA is fully aligned with the GNAIP 2011-2015 which was developed within the framework of new partnership for Africa's Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP)," he added.