By Awa B. Bah
The Minister of Agriculture Lamin Dibba, appeared before Deputies at the National Assembly in Banjul on Monday, to orally reply to concerns raised by NAMs. Dibba responded to issues relating to Agriculture and related issues under his purview.
Among the questions answered by Dibba, include the Chinese Agricultural Team, the 2,588 tons of parboiled rice donated by China, Mixed Farming Centers, access roads, revitalization of cooperative societies, and the purchase of groundnuts in the forthcoming trade season.
NAMs expressed concerned on when the Chinese Agricultural team will start operations in the country, and further engaged the Minister to highlight some their roles, in the development of the Agriculture sector in the country.
Minister Dibba in his response said the Chinese Team donated 2,588 tons of parboiled rice to the Gambia; that in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, from July 25th to August 4th 2018 they had a field trip to thirty one sites; that a report and memorandum of understanding has been signed and out of this a project document was prepared on major areas of concentration on rice and vegetables. The proposed sites he revealed, are Sapu, Wellingara Model Garden and Basse. This project document with a total cost of four million dollars he said, will be signed in Beijing during the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in September 2018; that forty Staff of various disciplines, have short term training in China.
Members further call on the Minister to brief them on the status of the rehabilitation of Mixed Farming Centers in Kuntuar and other places across the country. Responding to this question, Dibba said there are twenty-five mixed farming centers countrywide; that six of these centers have been rehabilitated and operational and they are the centers located in Kanjibat, Kwinella, Njau, Nawdeh, Mamut Fana and Bakindik. Plans he said, are underway to start rehabilitating Jenoi, Pirang, Kuntuar Fula Kunda, Mankamang Kunda, Ngayen Sanjal and Dankunku, this year.
According to Dibba, the remaining nineteen will be rehabilitated at a rate of six centers per year, with one center per Regional Administration.
On the Ministry’s revitalization of cooperative societies, Dibba said his Ministry and FAO, have started a National Consultancy for the institutional assessment of agricultural cooperatives in the country. The assessment he highlights, is geared towards improving the functioning of national cooperatives and associations in the Agriculture sector; that Agriculture Cooperatives require support on governance, empowerment, organizational management, value chain as well as access to finance. This assignment he said, will explore an in-depth understanding of the practice, performance, opportunities and challenges of agricultural cooperatives. Risk he stressed, will be identified as well as the cooperative management capacity gaps and highlighted a roadmap and expected outcomes for each Agricultural Cooperative.
On his Ministry’s plans to facilitate the purchase of groundnuts in the forthcoming trade season, Minster Dibba said the International Trade Finance Cooperation ITFC’s term sheet for financing the purchase of agricultural products and the import of fertilizer for 2018/2019, amounting to twenty million dollars, has been signed in July 2018; that as at now, they are hanging on the arrival of the formal loan agreement for the ITFC, which according to him, should have been received by now.
On concerns raised by NAMs surrounding the way the road from Jakaba Junction to Barrajally Tenda is not yet under construction more than six months since FASDEP signed the contract, Minister Dibba said the access road contract for Lot One with a total of 14.4 kilometers, include the road from Kaur main Junction, to the riverside; that the contract was awarded to GICEC and signed on the 27th of February this year, for duration of one year; that thus the expiry date of 27th February 2019. He said delays in the advancement process through direct payment, caused the late start of works at the first site in Kaur. The project management he said, has engaged the Company for not starting works at Jakaba on July 26th 2018; that they promised to start work soon after completing the Kaur road in August 2018. The Jakaba road he promised, will be completed by November 2018 ahead of the contract expiry date, and that plans are underway for Jakaba after Tobaski.
On the access road in Nianija linking the rice fields for the people of Jahally Pacharr and Kuntuar, Dibba informed members that FASDEP has constructed a thirteen kilometer stretch of quality laterite road, from Njau highway junction, through Chamen to Kaur Wharf; that the access road from Nyanga Bantang through Jailan Bakadaji to Safalu, is eleven kilometers and the NEMA project added 1.5 kilometers access road from Kerewan Sitokoto to the rice field, as well as a 1.7 kilometer causeway in Jailan Bakadaji; that GCAAV constructed a six kilometer access road from Pacharr village to the rice field, six kilometers away from Taifa village to the rice fields.