No To a Replica 2011/2012 Season!
Friday, August 10, 2012
Last year’s cropping season was a bitter taste that would linger on our tongues for several years to come due to the devastating, low crop yields which was caused by erratic rains. However, this year witnessed a good drop of rains, so far. The rainy season started off well, breeding hope in economically-bruised farmers that, come the harvest period, there would be a lot to celebrate; that at least there would be enough food for the family; and that, at best, school and medical bills would be taken care of; and that new clothes will be put on and perhaps a new bride.
However, information reaching this paper from various farming communities across the country has been somewhat discouraging. While some communities are grappling with lack of, or inability to buy fertilizer to enrich their clearly depleted farmlands, others are contending with the invasion of pests. It is both for some. Thus, midway into the rainy season, some farmers are still at the kick-off stage - busy sowing the seeds. Even though majority of those farmers quite know full well that the chances for crops sown at this time of the season to grow to maturity are slim, yet they dare to take the risk. Perhaps gambling this way is the only option for them at hand. What else could they do? This is a sad situation.
We all know that last year’s cropping season was a failure, which forced the government in March into declaring a state of emergency, though rather belatedly, compared to other Sahelian countries that were equally affected by last year’s climate-induced disaster. And we also know that ever since the declaration was made, a flood gate of humanitarian assistance has been opened. Donations, both from local and international donors, were pumped into the emergency basket, placed in the Office of the Vice President. Earlier on, the government had promised to use donated monies to buy food stuff, seeds and fertilizer for affected households. This was reportedly done, but there are queries.
For instance, farmers complained that even though fertilizer is available in some communities, it is being sold at a price they could not afford. This is understandable by anyone who knows the conditions on the ground in rural Gambia, especially at this time of the season. Infact, the complaints advanced by farmers have been confirmed by the National Assembly members, who pointed at inequitable distribution of the fertilizers.
The case of the pests is even more disturbing. An agricultural expert, who spoke to this paper on the issue of pests, said the pest outbreak was apparent, given that, like farmers, the pests had nothing to feed on after last year’s failed cropping season.
This paper is however at a loss to understand: What in the world the government would not advise farmers on such an eminent issue? Why was it that the agriculture officials failed to make timely intervention to avert the problem? If the various agricultural agencies that are bankrolled by the tax payers’ money failed in their obligation to the farmers, what is the essence of having them here?