The government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Agriculture and its development partner - the Global Agricultural and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) Wednesday launched a US$28M National Food and Agriculture Sector Development Project (FASDEP) at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
Funded by the government of The Gambia and Global Agricultural and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) with technical supervisory assistance from African Development Bank (ADB), the project is expected to push agricultural production and alleviate poverty in the country.
In his remarks, the minister of Agriculture, Solomon Owens, described the launching of the project as timely, noting that it came at a time when the challenges of improving food security for the poor and vulnerable are getting greater every day. Poverty levels, he observed, have contributed to "unacceptable levels of food insecurity" reported at 11 percent with malnutrition at conspicuously high levels among children under five years.
He informed the gathering that the Lower River, Central River and West Coast Regions are the target for the project, adding that the launching of the project came against the backdrop of coordinated efforts in securing the grant. He informed that President Jammeh has set up a high-level presidential task force to provide guidance in the implementation of the project. Minister Owens noted that the launching of the project will bring to four the number of projects supported by the AfDB. He also acknowledged that the bank has been a key partner to government's development endeavours.
He explained that key performance indicators for FASDEP have been outlined in the result-based logical framework, which will include food security for 240,000 of the targeted population of which 150,000 are women. The Agric minister further stated that the project will ensure increased agricultural productivity through enhanced management of existing 3000 hectare and development of additional 200 hectare under tidal irrigation; 155 hectare of improved horticultural schemes; establishment of 200 fish ponds; 25 small ruminant schemes and 20 commercial plus 60 traditional poultry schemes; 20 municipal market structures constructed with 80 percent being allocated to women, amongst a host of others.
He thanked all the role players in making the project a reality, while assuring the government under President Jammeh's commitment to food security in the country.
The minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, Mass Axi Gye, commented on the significance of the project. Linking the importance of the project to his sector, Minister Gye said his Ministry provides the cheapest form of animal protein and supplies about 40 percent of the total animal protein consumed in the country. While disclosing that the project will target 2000 women farmers, the minister however informed that environmental impact assessment will be carried out to address potential negative impact. "Two and half hectares of ponds with spawning tanks will be constructed within each agricultural region for 500 women farmers in groups of 10 and on demand-driven basis," he further disclosed.
The new country representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in The Gambia (FAO), Katepa Kalala, reminded that the 2003 Maputo Commitment by African Union members urged for countries to allocate at least 10 percent of their budget to agriculture.
The AfDB representative, Oladapo Olagoke, said the grant seeks to reduce rural household poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, through increased agricultural production and productivity and promotion of agricultural commercialisation. "We are aware of the commitment of the government of The Gambia towards the realisation of the goal of poverty reduction as enunciated in the Programme for Accelerated Growth & Employment- 2012-2015 (PAGE)," he acknowledged, stating that the project will greatly boost government's efforts in this regard.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdoulie Jallow, underscored that The Gambia has showcased its full commitment to poverty reduction by preparing a long-term development goal dubbed - The Gambia Incorporated Vision 20202.
This Vision, he explained, aimed at transforming the country into middle income and export-oriented nation by 2020 with agriculture and natural resources identified as top priorities. Author: Omar Wally