The National Seed Secretariat in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, on Tuesday 17th April 2018, validated the updated National Seed Policy 2018.
In his welcoming the statement at the event, the Director General of National Seed Secretariat, Morro Manga, indicated that the document they were about to validate was formulated in 2008 and after ten years of operations, there is need to update it to reflect current realities in order to conform to new objectives as well as address new emerging issues.
"May I draw your attention that FAO was the first Development partner to support the seed sector of the Gambia by procuring Laboratory equipment for the former STU of NARI, and hired the services of a Seed Consultant to install and train technicians on their use and maintenance", stated DG Manga.
He thanked the task force team for updating the National Seed Policy document within a very short period of time and extended gratitude to Josiah Wobil and Dr Adetumbi for their support in the seed sector of the Gambia.
On her part, Mariatou Njie on behalf of the FAO Country representative, indicated that the UN organisation's assistance in the formulation and adoption of the National Seed Policy in 2008, was quickly followed by the establishment of the Quality Declared Seed system for quality assurance and the establishment of a seed testing laboratory at NARI. This, she said, was followed by the strengthening of the previous Seed Technology Unit at NARI, and the formation of the first ever Seed Grower Association with responsibility to multiply improved seeds generated from research, to meet the needs of farmers. Madam Njie noted that in the Gambia, they have in place the relevant Seed Legislation, a seed certification agency called the National Seed Secretariat, the National Seed Council and seed testing laboratories.
"Recognizing that a few more gaps remain to be filled before full and holistic seed certification is attained, FAO once again is in partnership with the EU, to assist the Government of the Gambia to put in place the remaining structures, specialized skills and capacities", she stated. Madam Njie on behalf of the FAO Country Representative asserted that the completion of these steps will ensure that the Gambia ranks high in ECOWAS' harmonization programme to be a worthy and effective player in the looming community seed market, opening up in West Africa.
The EU representative on his part said they are happy to note that the Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity to update the current seed policy as an initial step in addressing seed insecurity and seed industry development. "It is envisaged that the updated National Seed policy will enhance the relevance of its tenets to the overall agriculture needs of the Gambia and contribute further to enhancing national seed security and the creation of a persistent and effective seed system that will serve farmers across all production systems, and promote smallholder seed enterprises", he said.
"Therefore, the EU will continue to support all seed industry activities planned and be available to participate in stakeholders' discussions on the way forward", he concluded. "Farming in the Gambia has depended for centuries on traditional seed saving practices and while these practices confer some advantages, there are overwhelming issues and concerns which compel us to adopt improved and more modern technologies to combine with our time tested indigenous knowledge". These were the words of PS Hassan Jallow while delivering the opening statement on behalf of the Minister of agriculture. PS Jallow noted that the Gambia's delicate agro-ecology, requires the best of modern crop improvement outputs to increase crop yields, widen crop adaptation, enhance overall production, combat pests and minimize the effects of drought and other calamities; that many interventions are needed from research and variety development, seed multiplication, seed quality control, processing and marketing, extension, seed security and training, just name a few of the most important. "The engagement and support of the full spectrum of stakeholders, including international agencies, donors and NGOs, will be necessary", he concluded.
After the opening session, presentations were made on the various blocks of the document and the participants were divided into five groups to critically review the document, before it was validated.