Agriculture: Strides in the Agric sector

Monday, July 21, 2008
Agriculture continues to be one of the most important sectors, employing 80 to 85 per cent of the Gambian population. In this respect, government, over the years, maintained its policy objective of increasing agricultural output, improving national income and food security, and generating maximum foreign exchange earnings. Government also continued to collaborate vigorously with the donor community, private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to optimally achieve these objectives.

Since it is a prime area for investment, the required attention should not only be given to raising income and also improving food security, but also to effectively reducing poverty and enabling government to meet the Vision 2020 objectives and the Millennium Development Goals to ‘halve the proportion of poor and those who suffer from hunger by 2015’.

In order to realise these objectives, ongoing agricultural projects such as the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), Rural Finance Project (RFP), Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), and Farmer Managed Rice Irrigation Project (FMRIP) have all made considerable achievements. Growth in the agricultural sector has been consistently high since 2003, due to good and evenly spread rainfall, together with efforts to diversify the sector.

Livestock Development Program

In the livestock sub-sector, in order to bring coherence and recognise the regulatory and supervisory functions of government, the National Assembly reviewed The Gambia Livestock Marketing Bill 2004 in 2005. The bill was meant to repeal The Gambia Livestock Marketing Act of 1976, which became obsolete with the privatisation of the Livestock Marketing Board.

The sector continues to perform impressively by contributing to the livelihood of the rural population through enhancing food security, income generation, fulfillment of socio-cultural obligations, maintenance of soil fertility and the provision of draught power for crop production.

The new livestock program was therefore provided to improve production, productivity and increase farmers income and support to non-state actors in rural development.

Micro-finance institutions

On access to credit by small-scale farmers, the formation of micro-finance institutions countrywide has led to  cumulative savings of over D60 Million by 67 Cooperative Unions registered across the country in 2007.

Below are major projects introduced by the present government to help improve the agricultural sector and work towards reducing poverty.

PIWAMP: The Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project was initiated to reduce poverty by increasing total land productivity on a sustainable basis through sound environmental and natural resource management practices.

Funded by the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the PIWAMP was launched in April 2006 and tasked to empower farming communities to increase productivity of crops, livestock and forest resources at the grass-root level through the transfer and control of efficient land use management from government to the local communities.

The Farmer Managed Tidal Irrigation Project; was introduced to facilitate sustainable income improvement and increased rice production.

The Community Driven Rural Development Project (CRDP) was also initiated to reduce poverty and enhance the quality of life by mobilising and empowering communities to undertake activities which enhance livelihood such as agricultural productivity, farm and off-farm income generating activities and support for social capital development.

The Integrated Rural Sector Development Programme also came into effect to improve rural welfare through agricultural expansion and improved productivity in the low lands.  

NERICA Rice: To achieve the goals of the sector and ensure food self-sufficiency, the government instituted the dissemination and cultivation of NERICA (New Rice for Africa) in 2007 which has been outstanding. This, coupled with the emergence of commercial farming, is an indication that the prospects for greater and diversified agricultural output are promising. Furthermore, evidence has indicated that land degradation has also slowed down.

Therefore, continued Nerica promotion to improve food security through increased rice production has yielded positive returns.

DoSA Restructuring process

With an excellent record and performance over the years, government continues to be fully committed to the revitalization and improvement of the Agricultural sector in order to ensure increased agricultural output, foreign exchange earnings, national food and income security.

NADA creation

The restructuring of the Department of State for Agriculture’s technical departments has led to the creation of the National Agricultural Development Agency whose main objectives include the effective and efficient generation, mobilization, and utilization of human, financial and material resources for the sustainable development of the sector. Government has also finalised the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Policy which would be a road map for the collective actions necessary to make the ANR sector more responsive to the prevailing circumstances and challenges.The policy also provides a road map to chart the direction and scope of the collective actions necessary to make the agriculture and fisheries sectors more responsive to prevailing challenges.

AELP establishment

The Gambia, like many other West African countries benefited from a package from the World Bank after the bank’s Board of Executive Directors meeting on December 16th, 2004, and approval was made for an International Development Association (IDA) credit of US$60 million in support of an emergency project. The objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of The Gambia in order to prepare and implement programmes and actions designed to prevent, control and manage desert locust infestations within its territory and in the sub-region, mitigate its economic, environmental and social impact on agricultural production, livestocks and food supply.

The World  Bank-sponsored US$1.9 million project in The Gambia led government to make significant investments and acquire the required equipment, human and financial resource back-up, with national and divisional structures and coordinating mechanisms and trained pilots and mechanics for well-trained ground teams.

‘Back-to-the-land’ call

‘Back-to-the-land’ has been a clarion call by President Yahya Jammeh since 1994 to date. It was meant for Gambians to go back to the land to ensure food self-sufficiency and to raise income as well as improve food security to help  effectively reduce poverty and enable government to meet the Vision 2020 objectives and the Millennium Development Goals.

To ensure the effective realisation of the objectives of the call, President Jammeh initiated the ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ and ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ with the provision of several hundreds of tractors to support Gambian farmers. Many believe that if the call is heeded, The Gambia can achieve food self-sufficiency.

Sector performance in 2004/05

The agricultural sector performed reasonably well during the 2004/2005 cropping season. Here, gains were achieved in the crop cultivated area, yield and production parameters. The overall cultivated area for cereals increased from 190,012 hectares in 2004/2005 to 195,662 hectares in 2006/2007 representing an increase of 3 per cent. The coarse gains production continued to attract the attention of the small-scale farmers in their collective efforts for food security, and over 80 per cent of cereal production has been accounted for by coarse grains production. Groundnut production registered an increase from 135,697 metric tones in 2004/2005 to 140,660 metric tones in 2005/2006.

Sector performance in 2006/07

In 2006/2007, the agricultural sector performed reasonably well during the cropping season. Gains were achieved in crop cultivated area, yield and production parameters. The overall cultivated area for cereals increased from 195,470 hectares in 2005/2006 to 207,841 hectares in 2006/2007, representing an increase of 6.3 per cent.  

The agricultural sector performed reasonably well during 2007, registering a 3% and 4% increase on cereals and groundnut production, respectively. During 2007, all categories or sub-sectors of agriculture, crop production, livestock, and fishing, have registered growth rates, with the exception of forestry, which has contracted by 4 percent.

Achievements from 1994 to date

The agricultural sector has greatly contributed to GDP. In conformity with the goals of achieving food self-sufficiency as enshrined in Vision 2020, the Department of State for Agriculture from 1994 to date, injected new vibrancy into the sector which resulted in a greater contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 1994, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP at factor cost was less than 25% but it has steadily increased to around 30% in the past years.  The increament cost was mostly due to improvements in the crop-sector.

-Increased crop production as a result of unprecedented area expansion in response to the clarion call of ‘back-to-the-land by President Jammeh.

-The introduction of new, high yielding crop varieties such as the Nerica rice.

-Greater diversification of the agricultural production base.

-Revitalisation of the horticultural sub-sector.

-Intensification of the livestock production system especially in the diary and fattening scheme.

-Major rigorous and efficient control of major crops and livestock pests and diseases.

-Improved farm mechanisation through the distribution of over 250 tractors countrywide by President Jammeh. The tractors were used to cultivate more than 3,000 hectares in 2003 alone and in addition to realising operations ‘Feed Yourself’ and ‘Operation Feed the Nation’.

-Improved supply and distribution of agricultural inputs mainly seeds, fertilizers and agrochemical.

-Reclamation and improved access to large areas of formerly uncultivated rice fields such as Jahally Pacharr, Wassu, and Janjangbureh, thereby bringing more than 9,000 hectares under rice cultivation and greater access to food processing and post-harvest facility.

rop performance before and after 1994

A comparison of the average area under crop cultivation in the past decade before 1994 (1984-1993) and the decade after 1994 (1994-2007) showed a 35% area expansion in the latter decade over the former. This area expansion resulted in a 15% increase in total crop production in the decade since 1994 over the decade before 1994.  This is largely due to the ‘back to the land’ call by President Jammeh.

The Jammeh administration, over the past 13 years, implemented a series of projects to promote crop performance and to enhance food self-sufficiency.

Notwithstanding, President Jammmeh still  calls for  greater participation and  commitment to agriculture. Failure to meet his target and expectations had compelled him to bring the affairs of the agricultural department under his purview.

Author: DO