The diversification and revitalisation of agricultural production and marketing in The Gambia
Monday, May 21, 2012
The diversification and revitalisation of agricultural production and marketing in The Gambia, a country with an agrarian economy, could serve as a panacea for all the problems facing this most important sector of our economy.
The president of the republic, Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhagie Yahya AJJ Jammeh , who laid down a solid national agricultural development framework and ensured the fitting in of all the required relevant structures appropriately, also made a clarion call to all Gambians to go back to the land for food self-sufficiency and self reliance .
As it appears now, the appropriate framework to work on and within is in existence and the clarion call has been made which should also be well answered to by all patriotic Gambians, both men and women, young and old. Nobody is doubting the efforts of the president in the entire national development process, as The Gambia today has successfully attained positive strides in the entire national development process.
It is against this background that I decided to come up with this article, as a patriotic citizen, considering the importance of this sector and its related subsectors. The country’s macro and micro- economic earnings mainly come from this sector by way of foreign exchange earnings, and a high level food production levels for food self- sufficiency and self reliance, hence the need to pay a great attention to this all important subsector.
However, it is only through a diversified and revitalised agricultural production and marketing programme that the country can effectively be transformed from a purely agricultural country into an industrial country. It therefore becomes obvious that when agriculture is fully diversified and revitalised, output from the sector will increase, enhance and facilitate the sprouting of industries throughout the length and breadth of the nation.
This will ensure proper preservation of food crops and cash crops, creating a multiplier effect in other sectors and sub sectors like horticulture, aqua culture and the livestock subsector. This can help to maintain good quality food crops and prevent decay and decomposition.
Agricultural development is crucial for the attainment and sustenance of a healthy rural, urban and national population and economy.
To achieve this, therefore, it would be necessary to embark on the preparation of a strategic plan to be centered on the following:
[a] Revitalization of mixed farming centres [MFC’S].
[b]Enhancement and facilitation of the back to the land clarion call and agricultural diversification.
[c]The revitalization of the liquidated co-operative apex and its affiliated primary societies.
A. The revitalization of all mixed farming centres [MFC’S].
The revitalization of all mixed farming centres in the country for active and progressive agricultural production in The Gambia will immensely help in the reactivating process of agricultural production in The Gambia.
These mixed farming centres have been serving a good purpose in this country and their revitalization will enable them even do better than they have been doing before. Such revitalized mixed farming centres would automatically serve as training centres for farmers for an effective and efficient crop production, livestock and horticultural activities. The centres will also serve for the purpose of effective and efficient management of farm implements and machinery for the districts within which they are operating. They can also serve as information, education and communication centres for the training and sensitisation of farmers on all issues relating to their activities i.e. agricultural, horticultural, aqua cultural and animal husbandry.
This will also help districts, regions and the entire nation to learn easily with all projects and programs being implemented, providing the multiplier effects for all and sundry. If all the mixed farming centres in The Gambia are revitalized and well staffed, the number of tractors that were brought in by our positively model President Sheikh. Prof. Yahya Jammeh for effective use by the people would still have been here serving their purpose of better and effective use by the people they were meant for.
Unfortunately, a lot of tractors came in through the efforts of President Jammeh but wear and tear did not leave them effective for long, as they should have and as expected. It is however a good lesson well learnt and needing good ideas and suggestions from all patriotic Gambians.
B] THE ENHANCEMENT AND FACILITATION OF THE BACK TO THE LAND CLARION CALL AND AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION
The President of the republic, Yahya AJJ Jammeh ,having laid down a very solid national agricultural development framework, and having made the all important back to the land clarion call , it behoves all patriotic Gambians to respond positively and proactively to the call .
This desire necesitates the preparation of this enhancement and facilitation article to enable all and sundry to respond positively to the call, men and women, young and old , each having their respective roles to play. The need for the enhancement and facilitation of the back to the land call cannot be over emphasized. This is a call made by a model leader who is leading by example. A model leader, who has frowned at vacations in Europe, The Americas, is leading with a good mission for his country and even beyond. If this back to the land clarion call is truly and well answered to, hunger and unemployment will become history in The Gambia, because all and sundry will actively be committed in going to the land for active engagement in agriculture, horticulture, aqua culture and animal husbandry, ushering a multiplier effect in areas of petty trading, micro entrepreneurship and micro- finance understandings. At this point, may we say a big thank you to president Jammeh for making this clarion call of back to the land.
For people to actively and effectively respond to this call, if not all, some will surely need an enhancement and facilitation package to help actively and not passively resettle them back to their rural homes and farms. As already mentioned, a lot of people may have the desire to go back to the land and resettle back home in rural Gambia, but may not be able to do so due to the lack of financial and other required resources which creates the need for a resettlement package. When this could be done and how it could be done should be critically looked into by a joint collaborative forum involving the relevant ministries, and departments, local Government authorities, stakeholders and collaborators, both governmental and nongovernmental , national and international. I am sure if a strategic plan is well developed and produced from such a forum, His Excellency Sheikh Prof. Dr. Alh. Yahya A J J Jammeh will not hesitate to give his approval and his unflinching support to it, as he has always done with all positively developed instruments of development.
This package and strategic plan, when developed, may include the creation of a back to the land fund for the provision of the following.
(b) Farm equipment and machinery
(c) Farm imputs
(d) Medical and health requirements.
The above four items are very necessary for the settlement of returnees back to the land. Returnees would however need the above to actively and effectively return home and settle down, ready to go back to the land actively and not passively. Returnees to the land world need food to be active on their programmes on the farm. They would need farm imputs and appropriate farm equipment and machinery. To do all the above three, the health of the returnees is most important. Against this background, therefore, the above four discussed issues should be given prominence in the resettlement package and process for returnees back to the land.
The above mentioned may even require the establishment of a well focused and well managed Agricultural Development Bank to take care of the issues mentioned, and connected to the back to the land call with government support. The above, when done, will usher in a new dawn for the entire Gambian nation, both rural and urban and will accelerate the attainment of the city state status for the country. It will also fight against rural decadence and help revive previously active rural riverside towns or ‘Tendas,’ as they were called and all other rural villages and towns.
Against this background, therefore, it becomes necessary in the absence of an operational Agricultural Development Bank in the country to come up with a suggestion of touching base and collaborating with the Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB) to assist in this area during the embryonic phase of this back to the land enhancement and facilitation package. The Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB) is a bank that operates without charging interest like other banks do, but only charges (murahaba) or service fees , therefore making it the most suitable bank to participate and be made operational in this all important activity area.
The Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB) is the most suitable for poverty reduction programmes and packages, and therefore becomes the most suitable bank to collaborate with, considering Gambian farmer poverty and the returnees back to the land. The West African Institute for Economic and Financial Management (WAIFEM) and the Central Bank of The Gambia are all aware of AGIB’s interest-free operations but only (murahaba). This bank can therefore serve as an interim operator in this back to the land programme in collaboration with the Government and returnees, based on agreed instruments and terms in the package.To borrow talents from India with a population of 1.2 billion people, India is a nation that feeds its population and is today exporting rice and other crops. India has a bank called the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) which is contributing immensely to agro- industrial developments in India. In the same vein, The Gambia, in collaboration with The Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB), can also make fully operational this agricultural package for food self sufficiency and self reliance and feed the 1.7 million people population and start exporting rice and other crops.
Overall, therefore, the revitalization of the agricultural sector and subsectors would automatically lead to increased agricultural production and poverty eradication, and hence the attainment of the well spoken about and the well desired food self sufficiency and self reliance. If India with her 1.2 billion population can seriously get down to work and develop an agricultural programme to feed her 1.2 billion people population, and even export rice and other crops, why can’t The Gambia and Gambians also emulate India and respond positively to the president’s back to the land clarion call with an enhancement and facilitation programme and package in collaboration with the Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB) to feed her 1.7million people population conveniently, and start exporting rice and other crops particularly with our fresh river water and the non -obstructive arable land with no obstructive mountains or hills like it is in India.
It would also be necessary to emphasize the need for the diversification of our agricultural programmes to ensure bumper harvest. Agricultural diversification means the inclusion of several or many different types of crops in our cultivation patterns and programmes. Instead of depending only on groundnuts and rice cultivation as cash and food crops, we can go in for other crops and fruits and vegetables to ensure comfort and safety when it comes to the vagaries of nature and certain crop failures. It may also pay a dividend with regards to demand and supply. Where one type of crop fails, other crops may survive, hence the importance of the diversity in crop cultivation. The revived and revitalized mixed farming centres will however provide the required training on all these issues for farmers to understand and make use of.
At this juncture, may I also briefly make mention of the need for projects and programmes to be implemented to be well planned and implemented within the cycle provided for them on time, particularly projects. We all know that programmes are ongoing and have no time limits unlike projects that always have time limits to phase out and if successful to continue as ongoing programmes. To ensure sustainability and continuity, projects need proper planning, timely implementation for the realization of the desired aims and objectives. There is no need for any dilatory in project implementation if the needs of the beneficiaries are to be met.
C. THE REVITALIZATION OF THE LIQUIDATED COOPERATIVE APEX AND ITS AFFILIATED MULTIPURPOSE PRIMARY SOCIETIES.
The Gambia Cooperative Union (GCU) Ltd, an apex body corporate for all operating multipurpose primary cooperative societies, was liquidated in 1998 by the Government of The Gambia. A few years later, another apex body corporate called the Federation of Cooperative (FOC) was formed only to be dissolved a few years later. Since then, there has been no apex body for the operating primary multipurpose cooperative societies in the country to help enhance and facilitate their operations effectively and efficiently.
Although groundnut marketing has been going on through the seccos with the participation of secco members and private traders, problems have been reported by the media on several occasions. The Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) has been financing the groundnut marketing operations and the Agric Business Service Plan Association (ASPA) has been taking care of all policy issues related to the groundnut marketing operations. All this, however, did not make the groundnut marketing platform problem -free. Farmers have been lamenting credit buying, low purchases by SECCOS - a common complaint. In put quantity price, and quality, a common agenda and crop quality are also a concern. The lack of an apex in a way saw the operating primary societies operating without a proper coordinating mechanism to monitor their operations and ensure proper management, facilitate activities among the stakeholders and the negotiation of prices. All these problems point at the need for an APEX for the multipurpose societies to plan, implement, manage, monitor, and evaluate all their operations in all spheres to ensure membership satisfaction and success of both the apex and the primary societies. Recently, an Apex was established for the Village Savings and Credit Associations (VISACAS).
This VISACA Apex is an apex for about sixty-six visas associations in the country to facilitate all micro- finance and entrepreneurship activities of the association members. This was a good move and the apex is operating independently but with the collaboration of the Rural Finance project, and the Central Bank of The Gambia and the government of The Gambia. Where these sixty- six VISACAs deserve an apex, the 86 cooperative societies in the country also urgently need an apex to look after their problems and provide pollutions. Both the government and international collaborators can go through the apex. Input procurement and delivery to the farmers will become easy and timely. Against this background, the need for the creation or the revival of the liquidated apex is needed to solve farmers’ problems in time.
To conclude, may I thank the government of The Gambia for all the good it is doing for the nation and the entire citizenry and to thank the NGO community and the media for the very important roles they are playing in the entire national development process. This programme, here, discussed, will not only benefit the back to the land returnees but the entire Gambian farmer population who are playing their respective roles accordingly. May I also thank the executive under the leadership of President Jammeh, the judiciary under the Chief Justice, and the Legislature under the Speaker. At this point, may I seize this opportunity to inform the president of the republic, Sheikh Prof. Alhagie Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, of my willingness and preparedness to serve as a volunteer liaison officer for the back to the land programme and all related agro industrial activities. I also thank the local government authorities and the office of the Attorney -General and the Ministry of Justice and the entire Gambian citizenry, all under the leadership of the President of the republic for being patriotic and proactive in support of all development projects and programmes, to see our nation on the path of forward ever, backward never, with the help and guidance of Allah The Almighty.
I thank you all.
Author: DULLO. M.H. SAMBOU A SOCIAL WORKER TEL: 3774362