By Awa B. Bah
The Minister of Agriculture Omar A. Jallow, has remarked that rice is life for our country and has one of the highest per capital consumption rates of 117 kg in the world.
Mr. Jallow made this remark during his opening address of the 10th Biennial Consultative Meeting of AfricaRice National Experts Committee (NEC), combined with the Preliminary workshop on the Global Research Alliance (GRA), on Agricultural Green House Gases, on Wednesday 20th September 2017, at a local in Senegambia.
The AfricaRice National Experts Committee (NEC), a consultative committee of Director Generals of the National Agricultural Research Institutes of member states, meet every two years .The forum provides an important platform for consultation and dialogue between the center and NARI decision makers on strategic issues related to the center’s program of activities.
He said the Gambia has a long tradition of rice cultivation as farmers were growing rice much before the arrival of Europeans.
The Gambia government he said, has identified rice as a major food security crop and has developed a National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) for 2015 to 2024, under the framework of the coalition for African Rice Development (CARD).
The NRDS he said, was founded on a vision of rice self-sufficiency with a production target of 322,600t of milled rice by 2024.
The objective of NRDS he said, is the creation of a competitive rice industry which will lead to improve food security and poverty reduction, spelling out six priority actions.
He revealed that AfricaRice has been providing technical information to the Gambia, between 2009 and 2016, with the thirteen donor-funded projects
Mr. Jallow said research partnership has generated many improved technologies, most of which is the cause of high-yielding upland NERICA rice varieties that were introduced in the Gambia, with the support of the African Development Bank.
The research collaboration he said, is increasingly focusing on the whole rice value chain, aimed at enhancing the quality and marketability of locally produced rice, through improved postharvest technologies.
The Gambia he assured, will continue to advocate for more support to the rice sector for better utilization of this common African tool called AfricaRice.
Dr. Harold Roy-Macauley, Director General AfricaRice, in his welcome remarks said, that they want to consider the Gambia as a serious map of their consideration for agriculture in particular rice as an important food security commodity in West Africa. AfricaRice he said, is the only institution that has a council of ministers mandated to help boost the rice sector in Africa.
He said that they have put in place impact infrastructures which is the way AfricaRice has designed itself to carry out researches and strengthen capacities through taskforces all over Africa, and the creation of innovation platforms that would enhance production.
He said capacity development is a key area the institution is considering and the effects of their work on agricultural development and how it will contribute to agriculture development in meeting food security, is important.
He commended the African Development Bank, development partners, research institutions and agencies, in working to respond to the challenges
Dr. Alioune Fall, Director General ISRA in Senegal, said the rice sector is a big business opportunity as many are now involved in it. This he said will enable job creation opportunities for young people.
Rice Seed Harmonization he said, represents an important milestone in the rice sector. According to him, member countries can now avail themselves a wide range of new technologies generated by AfricaRice and partners. He called for more collaboration and advocacy in the production of rice within the sub-region.