By Madiba Singhateh
The Ministry of the Environment Climate Change and Natural Resources last 25th January 2023, held a symposium on Food System Adaptation in a Changing Environment. This was done in collaboration with MRC Unit the Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The purpose was to disseminate the final findings of the food system adaptation by the FACE-Africa Project for policy makers’ stakeholders, collaborators partners working in food system, climate and health in the Gambia, and to discuss on how the Face-Africa team can serve policy needs of the Gambia in the future.
Rose Marie Green, Professor of Climate Food/ Health Co-Lead Face Africa Project, said they have been since January 2020 and they have an international team from the UK, The Gambia, and Austria and in Senegal and they are working together on this.
“The Project is funded by the Wellcome Trust in the UK because they are really interested in new primary ways to tackle climate Change and also improve people’s health at the same time,” she said.
According to her, they have chosen to start with the Gambia for their research because the country is leading the efforts with countries committed to reduce climate change.
She added that the main findings of the project revealed that the diets are equally lower emit than a lot of other countries in the world , which means that environmental footprints are lower which is actually very good for the planet.
Professor Green further explained that there are also problems when People do not consume enough food and vegetables and grains as well, adding that those who do not consume these diets are vulnerable to climate change implications.
According to her, the Gambia imports a lot of its food, particularly fruits and vegetables because the crop yields are quite low, noting that “they are going to be affected a lot more by climate change in the future”.
However, she said at FACE- Africa, they created some models and some tools with explored scenarios of what the future could look like and the climate change, adding that there is a gap between what the Gambia can produce in terms of food and particularly healthy food and what the population is going to need.
Green further explained that what they do is to module the few different scenarios to see if they can narrow that gap. “We observed that a combination of improved agriculture technology, improved use of fertilizer and more use of irrigation, combined with climate smart agriculture and climate resilience varieties could help to breach the gaps between what will be demanded in terms of food and what will be supplied.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of the Environment Mr Ebrima Jawara, Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS), said the Government of The Gambia recognised the tremendous work done by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the global fight for better health care since 1947.
He said over the past decades, climate related events have had catastrophic impacts on their food system.
“More recently, the 2022 flash floods and windstorm led to severe damage of property and tragic deaths.
“Flooding in urban areas has also increased the incidence of malaria and water-borne diseases posing a great threat to lives,” said DPS Jawara.
According to him, the World Bank estimated the physical damage of 2022 floods at over USD 80 million, adding that the Gambia developed its long term climate strategy, for achieving low carbon, climate resilience development by 2050 as called for in the Paris Agreement.
“It is officially called The Gambia Long Term Climate -Neutral Development strategy 2050 or TLS, which was published on the website of the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change on the 23rd September, 2022,” he said.
He concluded that MECCNAR is open to novel and practical solutions for climate change adaptation especially in the area of the food system.
“We are ready to create an enhanced positive and sincere partnership with national and international bodies. Knowing the dynamics involved in environmental management and climate change, it’s a pleasure to acknowledge the FACE Africa project as an envisaged sustainable part of the solution,” he said.