The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders on Tuesday validated the National Cassava development strategy document at the Paradise Suites in Kololi.
The strategy is provided to help transform cassava production and make it an economic commercial-oriented sector contributing effectively towards the attainment of the Vision 2020 agenda as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. The intervention is implemented by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and funded by the FAO.
Hassan Jallow, deputy permanent secretary of Agriculture said during the past three decades, The Gambia has been beset by frequent disastrous events of both natural and man-made origin. The country, he said is on the list of critical countries expected to be most affected by the negative consequences of climate change, especially those induced by weather related hazards.
PS Jallow observed that most recently, economic growth has been stifled by drought in 2011, adding that the country is expected to experience more unevenly distributed and erratic rainfall, more unpredictable and even severe flash floods, more unpredictable periods of drought and an increase in aridity in the coming years as a result of climate change.
He said that was why the government requested the support of FAO to develop the Cassava sector, saying improved Cassava varieties were received from Gabon and tested in different sites for yield, resistance to pests and diseases and palatability. "More varieties have been received from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and are been tested at NARI."
According to him, President Jammeh has been instrumental in initiating the venture with FAO, adding that he is a devout farmer and gives prominent and adequate attention to agriculture.
The government, he went on, has identified priorities of the agriculture sector while preparing the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Policy 2009-2015. "In accordance with the GNAIP, government has been gradually increasing investment in the agricultural sector from 6% in 2011 towards 10% during the PAGE period. This is in line with the 2003 Maputo declaration on agriculture and food security," he said.
Buba Joof, FAO's monitoring and evaluation officer of the MDG1C project, representing the FAO country representative said during the past 15 months, NARI has been implementing a technical cooperation programme with funding from FAO to introduce high yielding Cassava varieties and to formulate the strategy document.
Currently, he said agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering the consequences of climate change and low investment within the sector. "However, recent developments and achievements in Gambia's agriculture have the potential to effectively reduce effects and impacts of climate change with lower cost and in a shorter time-frame compared to sectors.