The President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) who landed in The Gambia last Wednesday 20 August 2014, for a two-day official visit on Thursday 21st August met with some private sectors and ministers for a ministerial meeting at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.
The two-day official visit of IFAD President to The Gambia accorded the IFAD boss the opportunity to meet with the private sectors, civil societyorganizations, youth organizations, as well as visiting some of the rural farmers rice fields and functional illiteracy in Sibanor West Coast Region.
Speaking at the meeting, Hon. Solomon Owens, Minister of Agriculture, on behalf of the Gambian leader and Gambian people, expressed appreciation to the President of IFAD Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze for demonstrating commitment in taking the lead in showing support for development of the agricultural sector in The Gambia.
He said the initiative was yet another milestone in collaboration between The Gambia and IFAD, adding that the visit was aimed at strengthening their partnership and enhancing efforts at transforming subsistence agriculture into economically successful and sustainable agro-enterprises.
Minister Owens noted that it was therefore deemed fitting that IFAD investments in the country were focused on smallholder agriculture that prioritizes rural women and youth seeking to improve their income level, increase food security and create employment opportunities for sustainable development.
He assured the IFAD President that his efforts to address these challenges and eliminate world hunger and poverty are well recognised.
Minister Owens said the history of IFAD partnership with The Gambia extends over 30 years, dating back to 1982, adding that during this period, IFAD had supported multi-million dollar projects in rural Gambia, such as the co-financed of Jahally Pacharr Smallholder Irrigation Project, to the most recent innovative NEMA project, all for a total financing of US$73.9 million and directly benefitting over 149,200 rural households.
He stressed that IFAD's recent approach to the development of the agriculture sector is scaling up proven strategies, as a result a new project in The Gambia known in the Mandika Language as NEMA - meaning prosperity, has been scaled up across the country.
The IFAD-supported initiative builds on achievement made over 30 years in partnership with smallholder farmers, he said.
He noted that the project is expected to develop 2000 hectares of tidal irrigation fields facilitating year round rice production and establishing 48 (5 Ha) garden schemes equipped with solar power year-round irrigation facilities for women and youth engaged in vegetable gardening.
He added that the project would support the establishment of 60 small and medium enterprises to serve as actors in the agricultural value chain.
The minister acknowledged and appreciated the support IFAD is putting into the development of the agricultural sector in The Gambia and sought further IFAD support for the recently declared Vision 2016, which is aimed at creating a "rice self-sufficient and self-reliant" in the nation by the year 2016 guided by the philosophy of "Grow what you eat and eat what you grow".
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"We acknowledge especially that during your tenure as President of this vital institution we have received targeted support and interventions towards the development of the rice subsector which is so dear to President Jammeh and the entire Gambian population, considering the foremost position of rice in the food security aspirations of the country," he said.
He told the IFAD President that The Gambia is looking forward to his continued support to the rice sector through the Vision 2016 agenda being championed by President Jammeh.
The Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Hon. Kebba Touray, said the visiting of IFAD President to The Gambia is an honour and it provided them the opportunity to showcase result of IFAD's investment in The Gambia during the past years.
It also afforded them the opportunity to discuss strategic national agenda for agriculture and in particular honored the special relations between IFAD and The Gambia.
The Finance Minister said the cooperation between IFAD and The Gambia dated back to 1982 and since then ten projects and programmes had been implemented which had impacted positively in the life of rural population.
IFAD has over the years, particularly under the leadership of the current President of IFAD, invested a total of $73 million which has directly benefited 150,000 households in The Gambia.
He said seven of these projects have been co-financed by partners like the World Bank and African Development Bank and in their collective support to the government in its effort to meeting the MGDs, PAGE Vision 2016, and Vision 2020 goal.
The Finance Minister further noted that in the context of Paris Declaration for AID coordination, harmonization and alignment IFAD had been cooperative and is compliance partner to The Gambia.
He said IFAD focuses on areas of prioritizing investments in smallholder farming which fit very well with the national development agenda, especially on the recent Vision 2016, which is a clearance declaration by President Jammeh for a war on hunger and to attain food-self sufficiency by 2016.
He said the Gambia places high premium on the IFAD partnership and the relationship would continue to be guided by constant consultation, engagement, dialogue and research for better result at all time.