Agriculture Ministry Launches Project To Increase Food, Nutritional Security

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By Makutu Manneh / Assan Bah

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a project on Wednesday August 17th 2022, to increase the country’s food and nutritional security as well as household income for vulnerable families.

The project referred Gambia Agriculture and Food Security Project (GAFSP), also aims to strengthen the sustainable home grown School feeding programme.

In the same vein, another project called Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agriculture Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV), was launched to support the development inclusive resilience and competitive agriculture value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs in this project targeted areas.

GIRAV is a multi-million dollar project grant (40 million dollars) from the World Bank whilst GAFSP is another multi-million dollar grant (16 million US dollars) which is being supervised by the Africa Development Bank. And the total cost of the two projects amounts to 56 million dollars.

The ministry aims to implement the projects over a period of five years in six agricultural regions in the country which includes five administrative regions of Central River (CRR), Lower River (LRR) Upper River (URR), North Bank (NBR) and the West Coast (WCR) Regions, together with the urban municipalities of Banjul and Kanifing.

Vice President Aliue Badara Joof, in delivering the president’s speech said the project targets small and medium scale farmers, women and youth for effective and profitable participation in rice production, rice value chain, vegetable value chain, cashew production and poultry. He said these are not only high value commodities but are scientifically proven to be highly nutritious to school going children.

“Agricultural development and modernization remains a gateway for creating employment and reducing poverty in rural Gambia and the rest of the country. The Government recognizes the importance of the agricultural sector not only as the backbone of sustainable rural development and wealth creation in the Gambia, but as contributor to the GDP and employment for many Gambians,” VP Joof said. 

VP Joof said Government welcomes projects involving women for them to have the requisite capacities and resources to improve the lives and livelihoods of the Gambian people. He encouraged and challenged women, young framers and home-grown private sectors to take responsibility for the opportunity to improve their livelihood.

VP Joof further mentioned that Government will continue to prioritize investment in agriculture, infrastructural development, agricultural machinery, post-harvest and processing equipment, storage facilities and related value addition and market access initiatives across the country. He said the Gambia is amongst countries that are more vulnerable to the impact of the ongoing war as well as the effects of climate change; that as Government recognizes this, they are committed to support and promote initiatives that are inclusive of climate change adaptation and resilience.

Dr. Demba Sabally, the Minister of Agriculture, said the goal of GAPSP is to improve food and nutrition as well as household income particularly vulnerable households, while the GIRAV project on the other hand will support the development of inclusive resilience and competitive agriculture value chain, focusing on smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs in the project targeted areas; that to achieve these objectives, the projects will be targeted at investment in infrastructure, technical and organizational capacity of actors particularly the youth, women and other stakeholders along the agriculture value chain.

The minister of agriculture added that the project will concurrently be making smart climate technologies, provide nutritious School meals and facilitate access to finance to individuals, groups and SMEs and create a sustainable agriculture business environment.

“The project will directly benefit 26,250 households involving about 210,000 people, primarily targeting groups that are smallholder farmers predominantly women. Male youth between 18 to 35, will be targeted, including farmers and entrepreneurs, small and medium SMEs engage in commercialization and value addition school and school children in pre and primary education. It is expected that 52% of the direct beneficiaries will be women and 40% will be youths,” he said.

The minister said the projects will be covering at least 39 districts across the country. He said these areas are known to be having the highest poverty rate in the Gambia and they are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Yasuhiro Tsumura, World Food Programme Representative and Country Director, said the project will benefit approximately 170,000 people including farmers, processors, community members, and school children, engaged in activities within project areas.

He further said his organization is ready to support the Gambia government and the people of the Gambia and will continue to work together to strengthen, deepen and scale up the progress which has already been made to ensure that the Gambia delivers sound and sustainable development.