Abdoulai G. Dibba
The National Seed Secretariat an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture with funding from the EU Funded project on Post-Crisis Response to Food and Nutrition insecurity in The Gambia, and jointly implemented by FAO, UNICEF and WFP to support vulnerable households in food insecure districts in NBR, CRR, URR and LRR, held the first ever Seed Fair in Farafenni on Sunday, June 24th 2018.
The project’s objective is to contribute to the reduction of the stunting rate (22.9 percent) by addressing the root causes of malnutrition, food insecurity and nutrition care and practices.
According to the organisers, the Seed Fair which brought together farmers across the five regions of the country and organised by the National Seed Secretariat of the Ministry of Agriculture, serves as a pseudo-market to enable farmers to have easy access to the required quality and quantity of seed, needed in preparation for the 2018 farming season.
The organisers indicate that the forum provided opportunity for seed producers, marketers and input dealers, to present their products to prospective customers. Thus creating a platform for linkage between seed growers and users.
“One of the most successful approach to reducing food insecurity is to create a functional seed system. Seeds and other farm inputs have been discovered to be available but is not at the reach of poor farmers, making agricultural productivity to be at the marginal level,” said Moro Manga, Head of the Seed Secretariat. Manga noted that the seed fair will develop their activities and contribute to facilitating their access to users of their products, after recognising the limits of most local seed growers who operate in the informal sector.
Dr Perpetua Katepa Kalala, the FAO Representative in the Gambia commended Government for the leadership of the Fair and for creating the National Seed Secretariat; that their research input is very fundamental. She joined the call for a continuation in order to have viable seed for farmers in the country.
According to her, farmers already know the importance of having good quality seeds; that there is no amount of water that one can give to a crop, that is not of good quality.
Dr. Kalala called for the need to strengthen support in the extension services because of their importance; that extension comes from three different sources, the department of agriculture, the farmer field schools and input dealers.
Dr Adetumbi Jonhson Adedayo FAO seed consultant spoke at length on the theme: “the role of quality seed in food security and nation building” noting that it is important as one cannot talk about food without quality seed. He said the issue of seed must not be taken for granted as quality seed can predict yield.
In his opening statement of the Seed Fair, the minister of Agriculture at the time, Omar Amadou Jallow asserted that the millions of Dollars that are spent in buying seed outside the country should be make to stay in the Gambia.
According to Minister Jallow, spending millions of Dollars on seeds can only stop if they as a government put up the right policies and the right support for Gambia to grow its own quality seeds in the country.
OJ highlighted the importance of research, describing it as one of the most fundamental of agricultural development.
“Without research, we cannot pursue the transformation and modernisation of what we need in agriculture particularly within the present difficulties that the agricultural sector is facing through climate change and other difficulties,” he said.
The minister encouraged the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the SEED Secretariat to work very closely to improve the seed quality in the Gambia.
He also commended Gambian women whom he said are the main producers of food in this country and went on to proposed that seed production has to be developed and promoted so that seeds becomes a commercial venture that will generate benefit to farmers who are going to benefit from the quality of the seed as well as those who are also the producers of seed.
Other speakers at the event included, Overseer of the office of Director General of Agriculture Mr. Sariyan Jobarteh, the Chief of Jokadou, Jim Fatma Jobe and the NBR Regional Director of Agriculture, Mr. Mustapha Drammeh who all expressed similar sentiments.