By Building Signboards At Project Implementation Sites Across The Country
This column is devoted to monitor and report on issues that relate to production, processing, preservation and marketing of agricultural produce, aimed at ensuring food security in the Gambia as well as the interventions of Government and Non-governmental Organizations in this regard.
Agriculture is a key sector in the sustainable growth and development of the economy of the Gambia, especially given the abundant arable land area and the large rural population of the country.
The sector’s contribution can be through various transmission mechanisms including directly through incomes for farmers and by linking them to other sectors in and outside the farming areas and through derived demands for other non-farm goods and services.
This Columnist has been touring the country and talking to the farmers in communities regarding their constraints and the way forward, in ensuring food security in the Gambia. However farmers have repeatedly lamented that there cannot be food security in the Gambia without increased productivity and there cannot be increased productivity in the absence of farm implements, fertilizer and enough water for crops.
In his recent tour, this Columnist found that the European Union co-funded project called “Circular Economy in Sustainable Agricultural Development” (CESAD), has installed signboards across a dozen project implementation sites in the North Bank Region (NBR). The signboards inform the general public and project beneficiaries of ongoing successful project activities in the Region. The CESAD initiative is part of the agriculture for economic growth and food security/nutrition project to mitigate migration flows.
The global objective of the project is to contribute to sustainable growth in the agriculture sector and to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition.
The program composes three mutually supportive components. The first component is agriculture for economic growth which is implemented by the FAO; the second component “School meals and disaster risk management” which is carried out by the WFP and the third component of the program is implemented through four different initiatives by NGOs. One of these initiatives is the CESAD Project, which is implemented by the European Research Institute (ERI) in partnership with the Agency for Development of Women and Children (ADWAC) and the Njawara Agricultural Training Centre (NATC).
The project intervention sites in NBR villages are Illiassa, Nuimi Lamin, Daru Barakat, Mbatang Kinlling, Conteh Kunda, Alkali Kunda, Salikene, Minteh Kunda, Illiassa Storage Facility, Conteh Kunda Nigi Storage Facility, Njabakunda Storage Facility, Darsilam Storage Facility, Solicita Cooperative Center, Solicita Food Processing Unit.
The Vision of the CESAD project is ‘to transform the agriculture sector in NBR into a profitable business that is able to generate profit for farmers and create work opportunities for unemployed people. For this reason, the project supports farmers throughout the entire value chain by creating better life conditions for farmers and food security.
The Project has a total budget of €834,605.00 for the next three years, with the European Union contributing 80% of the amount, and the remaining 20% funding coming from the implementing partners. The project which started in August 2018, will phase-out in August 2021.
As food security in Gambia is still influenced by several natural and structural factors that affect the lives and livelihood of rural smallholder farmers, the activities of the CESAD project focuses on the four cardinal areas of improving performance and quality of farming practices, providing logistic solutions to storage and distribution of goods, introducing diversity of supply to increase farmer’s resilience and strengthening local capacities for competitive market accessibility.
Discussing the impacts of the CESAD Project on the target communities, Mam Samba Joof, Executive Director for the Agency for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC), one of the local implementing partners of the European Research Institute (ERI) on the CESAD Project in North Bank Region, extolled that the CESAD project has helped to solve one of the key problems faced by women farmers in NBR i.e. storage facility.
According to him, the inability of women to keep their farm produce for long periods in the past, made them sell their perishable produce at cut throat prices.
“With the advent of CESAD project, the women are now having access to storage facilities they can now keep their farm produce for as long period as possible. Also, they can now keep them till the market price is favorable to them, too,” Joof said;
That the whole idea behind building storage facilities is to enable them store their farm produce if they cannot market them; that not all women have skills to transform their produce into value added products.
According to Joof, the CESAD project will enhance the marketing of women’s; that the project has already completed its first level and is now on the second level.
Joof said the first level of the project was meant to improve production which has been done and that the second level is meant to enhance storage and marketing facilities; that the whole idea is to build new markets rather than rely only on the traditional market; that the third level is to enhance transportation of produce from gardens to storage sites and eventually to the markets.
The Alkalo of Salikenye village in the NBR Junkung Dibba, commended the sponsor and implementers of the project on behalf of hundreds of women farmers working in communal gardens in his community.
He said the CESAD project has enabled women gardeners realize year round gardening.
Karamo Marong, the Manager of Niumi Lamin communal garden, gave a detailed explanation of what the garden produce; that over two hundred women work in the garden, thanks to the CESAD project and partners and for helping them improve their production.
Mama M.K. Manneh, Executive Director of Njawara Agricultural Training Center (NATC) disclosed that the CESAD project was designed to help women vegetable growers by shouldering some of their burdens in terms of lack of access to markets, production inputs and increase productivity; that the project is making huge impacts on the lives and livelihoods of women beneficiaries. He rated the CESAD project to be a sustainable one and thanked the management team and EU on behalf of the beneficiaries, for funding the project.
Fatoumatta Jagne on her part said the first support provided to them by the project was to build cold storage facilities; that this was their major challenge in terms of storing their excess produce; that they also gained knowledge on best practices on how to improve their productivity in both quality and quantity, through training provided by the project.
According to her, the SOLICITA project consists 43 villages and over 7,000 registered members across NBR.
“Our main challenge was failure to understand the markets situation and CESAD project has addressed this for us. The project has trained us on how to access market information and know the daily market prices before reaching the market,” she stated; that at the moment, they can decide on what to do with their produce to either sell or keep them in the cold stores, based on market information regarding prices, thanks to CESAD; that they can keep their produce for long periods without losing them.
The installation of billboards is for project partners to assert to local communities, the importance of social distancing and of the hygiene measures from WHO and Government in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
CESAD and partners highlighted the importance of these efforts with a view to mitigate the spread of the virus in the next months to come, and to ensure the protection of rural communities from COVID-19.