Abdoulai G. Dibba
Farmers in the length and breadth of the Gambia, have raised their voices on the threats to food security. All the farmers who spoke on the Agriculture Minister’s tour have lamented the same situational problem: lack of seeds, fertilizer, farm implements, lack of adequate water or rain for the crops and animal intrusion on farm lands.
Farmers made these assertions during the tour of Mr. Omar Amadou Jallow, the Minister of Agriculture, which started on Monday 22nd of October 2017 in Essau in North Bank Region and ended on Saturday 28th October 2017 in Ndemban, West Coast Region.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, the purpose of his tour is to get firsthand information from the farming communities with regard to challenges they encountered in this cropping season, in order to better formulate strategies in order to overcome them in the coming cropping season as well as gauge the impact of Agricultural projects in rural communities.
“As the Minister of Agriculture, it is mandatory on me to reach to farmers, listen to their concerns, communicate their concerns to Government so that strategies could be developed that can address and ensure food self-sufficiency,” OJ stated.
With regard to fertilizer, the farmers in all the regions visited by the Minister thanked his Ministry’s intervention in the reduction of the cost of fertilizer for this cropping season.
However, most farmers informed the Agric. Minister that while there was a reduction in the cost of fertilizer, unscrupulous business persons bought the fertilizer in large quantities only to sell it back to them at exorbitant prices making this most important farm input unaffordable. They called on the Ministry’s intervention to curb the practice.
In response, Agric. Minister Jallow told farmers that Government reduced the fertilizer for the benefit of the Gambian farmers so that they can afford the cost and improve production.
“Why should you allow unscrupulous businessmen to purchase the fertilizer at the price given to the farmers and take them to other areas or sell to them at exorbitant prices without reporting them to the local authorities or the police just because they are your relatives, neighbors etc,” the Agriculture Minister asked during his meeting with farmers. Agric. Minister Jallow further told them that they should not allow any form of relationship to breed injustice which can lead them to suffer, as in the case of fertilizer.
With regard to water for crops, farmers in all the regions visited, informed the Minister of the poor harvest this year, due precisely to the long dry spell in September, which made crops like sorghum and late millet to fail at the maturing stage, render all their efforts useless. They told the minister that the rains at the onset of the season, was very promising only to end up in a long dry spell that eventually affected the maturity of the crops.
In response to their lamentations, the Minister of Agriculture informed the farmers that droughts are natural and depend nowadays on the change of the climate.
He said what happened this year, is an indication that climate change is real and as a Government, they will try and diversify agriculture.
“We cannot continue to rely on rain fed agricultural activities,” the Minister stated; that what we need now is irrigation and this does not only mean river irrigation tapping underground water for agricultural purposes. “And my Ministry is going to seriously look into this,” he said.