The Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Omar Jallow, has acknowledged "the immense contribution" of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the fight against food insecurity and poverty alleviation in The Gambia.
Minister Jallow, alias OJ, made this statement at the signing ceremony of the Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) between the ministry and FAO in support initiatives against Fall Army Worm (FAW), held at the Ministry of Agriculture in Banjul on 12 October.
The 450,000 TCP project would be implemented by the Department of Plant Protection Services.
"FAW is alien, but is already present in many countries in West Africa, such as Ghana and Nigeria," the minister said, adding that by July, FAW was founded in few places in The Gambia.
"By August, the fast spreading insect was found in nearly all the regions of the country affecting maize crop. The threat finally becomes a reality, requiring speedy action," he said.
OJ said FAO provided support in conducting national sensitisation workshop, training of trainers' workshops and nation-wide surveillance.
He said pests and the damages they cause are an important deterrent in agriculture, which needs to be effectively managed to avoid massive crop losses.
Dr Perpetua Katepa Kalala, FAO's Gambia representative, said during the last year or so, FAW devastated food crops in several countries in west, east, central and southern Africa.
She highlighted the objectives of the project, which she said, are to strengthen national task-force on FAW, develop and put in place specific surveillance system for FAW, and conduct monitoring in affected areas.
The project would also launch a rapid campaign of FAW management at district level; train national experts on the assessment tools and management options; train farmers and extension agents on FAW identification and management in worst affected areas, through integrated pest management system and to conduct rapid assessment to understand the extent of pest and the potential crop losses.
The FAO representative said the agency is committed to providing support to The Gambia in the areas of plant pest and disease control, as well as all interventions that assist people and the government of The Gambia to attain household and national food and nutrition security, eradicate poverty and attain their development goals to sustainably improve the lives of people in The Gambia. "I also take this opportunity to applaud the government of The Gambia for the priority it accords to improving the lives of its citizens. I extend the thanks of FAO and all other United Nations organisations for the conducive environment that government provides for our fruitful collaboration."
Other speakers at the occasion, which included Mr. Sonko, deputy director of plant protection services, was chaired by the deputy permanent secretary, ministry of Agriculture Madam Ngum -Njie.