If all goes as planned, The Gambia will be food self- sufficient in terms of rice production in the next three years, thanks to a brilliant idea emanating from President Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh, seeking the Taiwanese Embassy in Banjul to map out an action plan in conjunction with the department of state for agriculture (DoSA), to significantly boost rice production in the country.
In his capacity as the secretary of state for Agriculture, President Jammeh, yesterday, hosted a group of Taiwanese officials at State House in Banjul. They were led to the State House by Ambassador Richard Shih, who made a power point presentation of the new action plan which, if fully implemented, is expected to ensure the realization of the aspirations of the Gambian leader.
Speaking at the cabinet room, at a ceremony witnessed by secretaries of state and officials from the department of state for Agriculture, President Jammeh said the call came following his repeated assurances of Gambians that in three years’ time the country would be self-sufficient in rice production. "But to be quite honest, he said, "nine years have past and it doesn’t seem we could do that unless we employ concerted and serious efforts to achieving that."
President Jammeh appeared fervently true to the view that with an array of varieties of rice in the country, there would be no reason why, if attitudes change, the country will not be self sufficient in rice production. To him, the export component is secondary; the most important thing is for the country to be able to feed itself. "It must happen and it has to happen," he emphasised.
According to Dr. Jammeh, the target of three years is not far fetched if there is attitudinal change. To that effect, he urged DoSA officials to minimise workshops and go on what he called ‘work fields,’ adding that failed projects are now things of the past.
"It is a question of commitment. It will require a mass sensitisation [for attitudinal change].
For his part, Bakary Trawally, permanent secretary, department of state for Agriculture, said as soon as the president’s message reached his office, he constituted a technical task force comprising Gambian and Taiwanese experts who had been working relentlessly to see the potential of having 250,000 hectares of rice.
To him, the president’s view is a technical possibility and a chance for Taiwan to prove itself and make The Gambia a model.
P.S Tarawally then attributed this year’s bumper harvest as a result of the clarion call by the President during the "dialogue with the people’s tour,’ for Gambians to go back to the land.
Modou Kotu Cham, secretary of state for Forestry and the Environment, who also spoke at the ceremony, implored DoSA officials to always involve farmers in their formulation of strategies. This, he said, is crucial in that the farmers are on the ground and that they are better poised to give them first hand information vital to agricultural development.
The Taiwanese Ambassador to The Gambia, Richard Shih, spoke at length on the new action plan and promised to walk closely with Gambian officials in achieving the desired goals of the President.