By Kebba Jeffang
A high powered delegation comprising senior agriculture officials, have conducted a three-day fact-finding mission in rice growing sites of Jahally, Pacharr and Kuntaur, following destructive flooding in those areas recently.
According to the head of delegation, Modou Gassama, who is also director of the NEMA project, the technical team was set up by the agriculture minister to visit the flood affected areas in Central River Region North and South; that the multi-disciplinary team of technicians are from the ministry of agriculture with the assignment to carry out a recognizant survey to determine the extent of damage, caused by the recent floods in August.
“The team will assess the impact of this damage particularly to rice production. We visited three areas both in CRR-North and South including Jahally and Pacharr rice fields, and Kuntaur. We conducted tours around the fields and also held discussions with the farmers, for them to give us the perspectives of what they think this flooding has caused to them and the causes of the flooding itself,” he said.
Gassama, after the end of the visit, attributed the disaster to several reasons including climate change and the weak status of perimeter dikes that prevents run-off waters from excessively entering the fields.
“We have all realized that climate change is a factor and we need to build the capacities of our farmers to be able to respond and adapt to the hazards of climate change. To do this we need to carry out very serious sensitization campaigns in collaboration with the department of water resources that is responsible of disseminating climate change issues. Agriculture has taken note of this and we are already in the process but we will intensify it,” he said.
He said they also noted that some of the flood protection dikes that are constructed along the tidal irrigation schemes, are seriously degraded. According to him, these dikes were constructed several decades ago as far back as 35 years, without any form of maintenance; that due to their degrading condition, some of them are used as intrusion points for run-off water which also accumulate into the fields causing serious flooding.
“The other point we have learnt is the issue of drainage. We know that when a lot of water accumulate anywhere it has to be drained at one point particularly in the rice fields. We have noted that the flow of water is seriously retarded because some of the canals that are used as drains, are silted and because of siltation, water cannot flow the way it should to be able to exit the fields. We have also noted that the capacity of the drainage outlets is very small. So even if water is flowing, their capacity to push water out causes flooding. We need to address that,” said NEMA director.
The team leader added that another issue they have noted during the visit is the need for timely ploughing. He said without this, farmers cannot cultivate on time and therefore when flood happens, it will either destroy the seedlings or the newly transplanted rice. He said it will be important to recommend to the Hon. Minister, to make available to the farmers some ploughing equipment such as tractors, so that farmers can plough and transplant on time; that then the hazards of flooding, can be significantly minimized.
“For the case of Kuntaur, we have noted that the issue is not one of of flood protection but a dispute within the community to allow the projects to develop the land. There were some serious discussions regarding that and we are convinced through the discussions, that it will be resolved. As soon as that is done, the NEMA project is coming in to develop 110 hectares of tidal irrigation with proper flood protection dikes that will lead to a significant reduction of the hazards of flooding in that area,” he said.
Gassama informed this medium that because of the urgency and emergency of this situation in Kuntaur, the Minister has approved the distribution of 500 bags of rice to the affected communities. He said Kuntaur and cluster villages will have 200 bags, Pacharr 100 and Jahally 100 bags.
He assured that the mission team will deliver the findings and the concerns of farmers to government for address.
Sainey Jallow, a rice farmer and water committee member at Jahally field, said the perimeter dike has been cut by the run-off water which causes excessive water supply in the field; that they need to support and rebuild the dike because farmers cannot do it. According to him, they need machines to do it and government should provide them.
Lamin Kangi, another rice grower at Pacharr field, said the flood has caused them huge losses due to the inundation of their rice fields. He urged government intervention to put a permanent solution to the recent floods, which he said, also happened last year.
Maimuna Barry of Kuntaur said they lost all their harvested rice to the flood waters. She explained that the flood was too much that even the harvested rice that were packed in the village’s warehouse, were inundated and destroyed. She urged emergency support from government.