The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16th, the day on which the Organisation was founded.
The World Food day and theme for this years commemorations is "World Food Security, the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy”. It’s against this background, that the Department of state for Agriculture in collaboration with Action Aid -The Gambia and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Banjul Office last Tuesday organised a World Food Day -Candle Light Vigil at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding.
The event was meant to highlight the plight of over 900 undernourished people in the world, most of whom live in the rural areas and deriving their living from agriculture.
In his welcoming remarks, Yankuba Colley, the Lord Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council said, this years event demonstrate solidarity for the fight against hunger and poverty.
According to him, President Yahya Jammeh, had emphasised the importance of food self- sufficiency.
In a statement read on behalf of the director of Action Aid -The Gambia, Buba Khan said in the recent months, the press has been full of reports of food prices reaching record levels. According to him, world prices for many staple food crops such as wheat, rice and maize have seen record increase recently. "The scale of the global food crisis is no secret to all of us. Before this crisis, over 850 million people went to bed hungry. . He went on to say, every day one out of every five children die every five seconds, as a result of hunger related causes. The World Bank estimates that the figures of 850 million hungry people could rise by further 100 million this year and that the poorest of the poor who spend two-thirds of their income on food will be hardest hit, the majority of whom are women" he said.
In a message delivered on behalf of the FAO director general, Baba Gana Amadou, the FAO boss in The Gambia read, climate change affects every one but the poorest region are always its first victims. According to him, their situations are likely to be worsen in the next decades adding that the worst hit will be hundreds of millions of people who are already vulnerable to food insecurity. "Climate Change will lead to the scarcity of arable land and biodiversity, Changes in temperatures as well as frequent extreme weather conditions would be expected resulting in agriculture production failures with negative impacts on access to food" he said.
The FAO Director General further revealed that, during the last three years, due to the soaring food and energy prices, the number of hungry people has increased by another 75 million at the end of 2007.
For his part, Bakary Trawally, the permanent secretary at the Department of state for Agriculture on behalf of the secretary of state for Agriculture, said the theme for this year’s World Food Day and Tele food demonstrates increasing recognition by international community of the importance attached to world food security.
"It requires governments all over the world to make food security a priority by enacting wise policies. A combination of multiple factors affects the attainment of food security as well as implementation strategies to develop agriculture" he said.
The Agriculture PS further lamented that greater pressure is being put on food supplies as staple food such as rice and wheat have been affected by price rises mainly due to climate change that affect crop yield and harvest. He challenged all stakeholders to intensify their efforts through coherent policies in scaling-down the figure already quoted[850 million], who go to bed each night with an empty stomach or thousands who die due to malnutrition.
At the ceremony, Haddy Panneh, Alkalo of Njawara Village in the North Bank Region and a woman Farmer handed over a women chartered endorsed by Women Farmers across the country during the nationwide caravan tour Hon. MS Touray, on behalf of the speaker of the National Assembly for consideration for the interest of the local farmers.
Nancy Njie, the secretary of state for Tourism and Culture on behalf of the First Lady, Madam Zainab Yahya Jammeh, lit the first candle.
The ceremony was attended by senior government officials and diplomats.