Gambia is set to rebuild its agriculture sector
Gambia agricultural sector is set to take a bold and better shape. Recently, the minister of agriculture, Omar Jallow, has said the new government is ready to focus and rebuild the agriculture sector in order to make farming a commercial venture. This will make it competitive and rewarding as a business. As a result, more people will venture into it and eventually becomes a lucrative means for living.
It has been confirmed that the agriculture sector of the country is the highest contributor to the Gambia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 70% of the population depends on it for their livelihood. However, this sector needs further reformation in order for Gambians to benefit more.
The agriculture minister made it known that the sector has suffered “a devastating, depleting effect” under the government of Yahya Jammeh.
“For example, the country has dropped in purchasing peanuts as our cash crop from 200,000 tons in 1994 to just 35,000 tons last year,” Hon. Jallow said.
“Also, most of the qualified personnel of the sector are either dismissed or undergoing trial during the last regime.” He added.
Hon. Jallow is currently representing the country well. He is very effective and efficient in carrying out his duties. Many Gambians applauded his progress in making the country a better place through improved agricultural sector.
Jallow talked about the issue of cooperative movement and how it has affected farmers:
“They [the Jammeh government] destroyed every foundation needed for cooperatives to take off. Some farmers began building their own consumer shops. That policy has to be revisited again,” Jallow said.
The minister further said that donors and investors are highly welcome to help support and build the Gambia’s agricultural sector. He emphasised that support is very crucial as the government can not do it all alone.
“We have to use those funds to develop the industry. When you want to develop the industry, you start with the people (the beneficiaries). So our targets will be farmers. We need to do away with projects because in implementing projects, the bulk of the money goes to those managing the projects rather than the farmers,” he said.
In addition, Hon. Jallow said the new vision of the agriculture sector is to make sure that all funds are directed to the farmers as beneficiaries, in contrary to what is obtained under Jammeh. This will in return allow investors to have direct partnerships with farmer groups and family farms. Consequently, farmers will benefit from the sector and at the same time, secure more funds to expand their farming businesses.
“I am happy to have returned to the ministry I was serving prior to the 1994 coup. It is not just agriculture but all other sectors are depleted,” he said.
This new system allows investors to bring in machineries while farmers use their lands as collateral and they go into business. This new form of partnership is what now obtains in Senegal and some other African countries. However, the system has highly favoured the countries practising it.
The minister also said that the sector will be mechanised which will eventually unlock potentials. With a tractor which can do what 20 people cannot in a day, labour will be saved; farmers will gain more time, expand their farms and increase their production quality and quantity.