Gambia: President Wants Shift to Commercial Agriculture

The president of the Republic Saturday continued his nationwide tour with a strong call for Gambian farmers to engage in large-scale agricultural production so that the nation can move from predominantly subsistence farming to commercial farming, in line with the objectives of his government for the attainment of food security and export of the surplus in the shortest possible time.

Speaking at a meeting held in Jambanjelly, Kombo South, WCR as part of his "Vision 2016 Rice Self-sufficiency Tour", President Jammeh stressed that the idea of subsistence farming - a system where farmers cultivate crop for only family consumption - should now end. "It's about time commercial agriculture began. The plans we have now is to bring agro-processing where mango and many others will be processed and will be priced by us," he disclosed.

The Gambian leader said his "Vision 2016" targets to make The Gambia self-reliant in rice, arguing that people cannot be independent when their food is imported. Jammeh told the people of the area that it is through exclusive cultivation of crops and the growing of fruit trees that the "Vision 2016 goals" could be met. He deplored the current status quo, in which crops that used to be in abundance in the country such as 'findi' are now being imported. "Previously, 'findi' and many other crops were in abundance, but today, they are either being imported from Ghana, Ivory Coast or other countries," he lamented. He added: "By 2016, I am not saying we should grow only rice, but we will go in for whatever food crop that is consumable by man."

Women empowerment

The Gambian leader was never-ending in his praise and appreciation of the important role women continue to play in the implementation of his programmes and policies, describing them as a catalyst to national development. He said he has enormous confidence in women to the extent that he can entrust them with any responsibility and yet go to sleep. "I'll continue to empower women because they are honest. In the next five years, by the will of Allah, you will all see a greater change," he promised.

Cashew as a lucrative business

The president also used the meeting to point out the lucrative nature of cashew production, urging the locals to without hesitation explore this agricultural domain for increased household income. He observed that there are many potential lands lying fallow, urging for them to be utilised in cashew production. "We all know that cashew nut is more profitable than groundnut," he said, stressing the need for its production to be given the attention it deserves. The president opined that the type of poverty in The Gambia is "self-inflicted", saying the culture of looking at certain skilled works as "inferior" is undesirable and an impediment to national development. "God willing, the Vision 2016 must be achieved. People must work and feed themselves," he stressed.

Indigenisation of natural resources

As in other meetings, President Jammeh urged Gambians to indigenise the country's natural resources sector, observing that foreigners are leading in its exploitation. "Let us change our attitude. Foreigners have come here and taken over all our resources. They come here and start small businesses and end up being successful businessmen," he said. Other issues

The Gambian leader also urged parents, particularly men to be more caring to their children and not to leave all the responsibilities in the hands of women. He told men to encourage father-child relationship and to always have sympathy for women. "We are all Gambians and thus we must help one another. Women are working 12 months while men are sitting down doing nothing. This will no longer be tolerated," he said. The Gambian leader also advised ladies to make the right choices when deciding to get married, urging them to ensure that their love supersedes any other consideration. He urged parents to stop encouraging vanity among their children, saying the religion and the Holy script - the Qur'an has made everything simple.

The Agriculture minister, Solomon Owens at the meeting, reiterated his call for Gambians to embrace the "Vision 2016 Agenda" of the Gambian leader and his government. "It is estimated that every Gambian finishes at least two and half bags of rice every year. The money spent on rice importation could be diverted into other national development agenda if the people are ready to embrace agriculture and President Jammeh's Vision 2016 target," he pointed out.

The WCR governor, Lamin Sanneh, assured President Jammeh of his region's commitment towards the achievement of his 'Vision 2016 target'. He thanked him for the numerous development projects he brought in the region, singling out the construction of the Brikama-Manduarr road as one of the biggest projects in the area. Sheriff Ajay Janneh, Siffaye Hydara and Alhaji Bafoday Touray, chief of Kombo South, WCR women mobiliser and WCR youth mobiliser, all thanked President Jammeh for his foresight in developing the country.

The APRC national women mobiliser, Isatou Jiffanga Jarju, assured President Jammeh that the women and people of the region are united behind him and will always support his agenda.

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