Abdoulai G. Dibba
Gambian farmers across the country have renewed their concerns hampering their drive to ensure food self-sufficiency and security and poverty eradication. The farmers enumerated their concerns ranging from the late distribution of fertilizer, inadequate tractors, improper marketing arrangement for their groundnuts and lack of access roads to their rice fields and the threats posed by climate change.
The concerns were raised to the new Minister of Agriculture Lamin N Dibba, during his three day countrywide tour that started Wednesday July 11th to Friday July 13th 2018.
The tour led Dibba to Bakindik mixed farming center, Kerewan Regional Agriculture Directorate, Salikene, Chamen, Basse, Kaba Kama sheep fattening, Yero Berri Kunda Livestock Station, Sapu Regional Agriculture Directorate, Jenoi Regional Agriculture Directorate, Bureng and Badionkoto Women’s Garden. Agric. Minister Dibba was able to meet and discuss with farmers and agricultural workers, in all the places visited.
The tour according to officials of the Agric. Ministry, enables the Minister to have first-hand information on pertinent issues affecting farmers. According to the Agric. Minister, the information gained from the tour will give him better access and information for onward transmission to the President, on issues affecting farmers, as he embarks on his meet the people tour.
Agric. Minister Dibba who was accompanied by a high powered delegation from his Ministry, as well as Agric. projects heads and directors, discussed the issue of fertilizer, salt intrusion, farm implements, access roads and seeds with farmers, because this continues to be a major concern for them at all the places he visited. Farmers lamented that Government should assist them address these issues, to boost their productivity.
Responding to their concerns, the Minister of Agriculture Lamin N. Dibba, indicated that the focus of the new Government is to rebuild the Agric. sector and make farming a commercial venture and a rewarding business for the citizenry; that Agriculture is the highest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and seventy per cent of the population depend on it for their livelihood.
Dibba asserted that Government through his Ministry, will revive the defunct cooperative societies for farmers to take charge of their affairs and solve the issues of farm inputs and implements, without relying on Government; that this was the practice and the Government will revive the practice because it was beneficial to farmers. “The cooperative societies were in place. They used to provide farm inputs and implements and loans to you, during the rainy season, which was helped to boost your productivity,” he told the Farmers. “We will not only go back to this practice, but will as well establish an Agriculture Development Bank, where farmers can access loans without depositing collaterals,” he said.
Agric. Minister Dibba promised to address the concerns raised by farmers in the short term, especially fertilizer; that plans will be put in place for issues like the late availability of seeds and farm implements like tractors, to be available earlier by the next cropping season. Dibba further told farmers to cherish and buy the subsidised fertilizer sold by the GGC at D700 per bag; that is a reduced price from the original cost of the fertilizer.
“If you do not cultivate more groundnuts this year, you will regret it, because the price of groundnut will be good, come December 2018. This will take us to the past where the commencement of every trade season, was like ‘Tobaski’ to the children of the farmers,” he stressed.
Mbye Jabang, the coordinator of the Central Project Coordinating Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, spoke at length at the regional office in Basse and explained to the officers about the mission of the new minister’ tour, ahead of the presidential meet the people’s tour.
Sanna Jiana, deputising for the URR Regional Agriculture Director, welcomed the Minister’s entourage and stated that the rains started in there region on 6th June; but observed that the rains are not yet satisfactory. He went on to highlight some of the support they are getting from the NEMA project in building and distributing resilient seeds and crops for farmers; that farmers in the country have received support from the FAO such as rice threshers, power tillers and cereals seeds, to name a few. Jiana concluded that they are expecting thirty tons of groundnuts from FAO, which they are yet to receive.
Sanjali Conteh, the regional livestock director in URR, explained some of their activities and the effort the community is doing in the livestock sub-sector. He urged the Ministry to focus on animal husbandry and poultry farming as viable areas that can improve farmers’ productivity in the region.
Lamin Saine, deputy director at the department of livestock services, said they want to map out ways to create feed mill factories for livestock in order to stop them from going out of URR, to fetch for feed.