|Culture of subsistence should give way to large-scale farming
- President Jammeh
3rd May 2014
The Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh has said that Gambian farmers should do away with the deeply inherent farming practice of subsistence and embark on large scale agriculture, with the objective of feeding the nation, just as is being demanded by the new 2016 food self-sufficiency agenda.
President Jammeh was speaking at Jambangjelly on Saturday during a meeting in that Kombo South community, as the Dialogue with the People Tour enters the West Coast Region.
While calling for diversification of crop production, the President clarified that the Vision 2016 food self-sufficiency initiative does not only promote rice cultivation but also any agricultural venture that drives towards keeping hunger at bay and achieving the ultimate objective of ending importation of food items that could easily be grown in the country.
Therefore, he indicated that despite Kombo South and the West Coast Region do not have many swamps for rice production, they could grow so many like cassava, which thrive very well on their soils; horticulture and even large scale fruit tree production. He noted that the area is blessed with diverse production sites which if maximally utilised, their produce can feed the whole region, if not the country.
He went on to lament the fact that many food crops like ‘Findi’, millet and cassava are now sold from Senegal, when they were all produced in that part of Kombo and not bought from anywhere. This he noted is what they should revert to.
“I know people of this region are saying the ‘President said we should cultivate rice but we do not have swamps for rice cultivation’. The Vision 2016 is not all about rice production. It involves every aspect of agriculture. You can grow cereal crops of all types or engage in agro-forestry and this will be another focus of ours”.
Like in the previous meetings, the President heaped praises on Gambian women for their steadfastness in the development process of the country in general and agriculture in particular. He harped on the conviction that the country’s agricultural advancement is being driven by women, whom he reiterated have been the pillars of so many families, while their husbands loiter around ‘Bantabas’ and dodging family responsibilities. Hence he called on them to embrace farming especially fruit trees like cashew. He recalled that he has been calling on people particularly men to grow cashew, or set up orchards, noting that the few who heeded his call did not regret it.
President Jammeh mentioned the national women mobiliser, Isatou Jifanga Jarju as somebody who epitomises hard working Gambian women, recalling that she was the first Gambian woman to be a given a tractor for farming, when she declared her utmost readiness to venture into full time agriculture. He expressed his positive impressions about her manner and what she has become; given her humble beginning,
His Excellency finally emphasised that gone are days when agriculture was compromised; that the 2016 Vision is a matter of force.
Speaking earlier, the Secretary General, Head of Civil Service and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally indicated that the presidential call for food self-sufficiency is not new; that it has been a repeated call since President Jammeh took over in 1994. He said the President has been dismayed by the fact that for 30 years the rice fields have been the same; with limited productivity, hence his desire to expand and develop them, with the objective of achieving food self-sufficiency.
Sabally advised the youth to help their mothers in the farm and reiterated the call for diversification of farming.
He urged the people of the West Coast Region to lead the race towards Vision 2016, the same they have been leading polls for the APRC party during elections, calling them the ‘power house’.
The Secretary General finally thanked Kombo South and the people of Janbangjelly for the befitting welcome to the presidential tour delegation to the region and encouraged them to continue the same spirit.
For Solomon Owens, the Minister of Agriculture, collaboration between Kombo South Nerica Rice Growers’ Association and the ones in the rest of the regions is indeed crucial for the realisation of the Vision 2016 and the promotion of rice production in that area in particular.
The Agric minister posited that money spent on rice importation could be used up in other important sectors of the economy, if the national food self-sufficiency initiative is taken seriously. He went on to recommend large scale cultivation of cassava, saying it will yield positively in that part of Kombo.
Also speaking at the meeting was Basic and Secondary Education Minister, Fatou Lamin Faye, who recalled that years back President Jammeh used to say there will come a time when people will have money but won’t have much to buy. She said current global food crisis is a reminder of His Excellency’s statement. This, Minster Faye noted is all the more reason why people should endeavor to feed ourselves rather than depend on imported food stuff.
She took the opportunity to talk about the developments in the education sector courtesy of the President’s vision for the country . She mentioned the free education policy in the lower basic schools and the plans to extend the same opportunity to the other levels, in government’s efforts to introduce free education at all levels of the country’s education system.
The minster also mentioned the forthcoming 20 years anniversary celebration of the APRC party and the 20 Dalasi contributions for the event, as a show of appreciation to numerous developments brought by the APRC regime.
Abdou Colley, the National Assembly Member for Kombo South, on behalf of the National Assembly Members in the West Coast Region, pointed to the Assembly’s commitment to the realisation of the Vision 2016. He said being people’s representatives, they know that the hungry cannot be led.
As largely coastal communities, the Kombo South NAM said the area is working hard to improving fishing activities in their communities, as well as blend it with poultry production for the youth who are not into fishing.
He therefore urged support to their initiatives, which aim to add to the diversification efforts in the agriculture sector.
Isatou Gifanga Jarju, National Women Mobiliser for APRC hailed the unity that exists among West Coast Region women and pledged Gambian women’s unflinching support to the President. She said the fact that the President is a native of the West Coast Region is enough reason for the region to give him full support and embrace his ideals.
Madam Jarju tipped the West Coast Region as having the potential to keep hunger away from the country, making reference to high level of Nerica rice production in that region.
For the Youth Mobiliser of the West Coast Region, Alagie Bafoday Touray, President Jammeh is a school for the youth of the region; for all that he tells them they see. He said when the ‘back to the land’ call was made, they organised meetings among the youth of the region to attain the President’s vision.
The regional youth mobiliser revealed that they have divided themselves into groups that concentrate on different aspects of agriculture such as fisheries supported by the West Coast Region Coordinating Committee for Farming and Fishing.
Touray told the President that they are ready to support the 2016 Vision and informed that they will be clearing their lands, from Kalaji to Kartong, right after the tour.
Aja Sifaye Hydara is the West Coast Region’s Women Mobiliser. She opined that any programme meant to drive away hunger is helping the women more “because when children are hungry they run to their mothers”. Hence, she noted, it is understandable when the President empowers women in this respect.
Hydara therefore stressed their resolve to support the agenda 2016, and their readiness to work on the President’s farm in Dasilami.
She finally called on the women of her region to strengthen unity among themselves.
Omar Bojang, President of the Kombo South Nerica Rice Farmers’ Association and Vice President for that of the West Coast Region, said the agenda 2016 food self-sufficiency is only to strengthen their commitment to it, for they have already been involved, pointing to the prominence of Nerica rice production in the region, particularly in his native village of Jambur.
Bojang however requested for seed stocks because of lack of water and poor yield experienced from last crop season. He also asked for facilities like boreholes for large scale rice production in Jambur, as well as road from that village.
Visit to Dasilami rice field
The Jambangjelly meeting was preceded by a visit to the President Jammeh’s farmland in the village of Dasilami in the Kombo South District of the West Coast Region.
The 90-hectare rice field stretched from the main highway to the Allahen Bolong and then to Siffoe to the other side. Only forty hectares is being cultivated and to ensure better access to water, largely for the 40-hectare cultivated part, the President suggested for dry-ploughing.
He however observed that the more fertile part of the farm is what is left uncultivated and suggested for expansion.
Report by Madiba Sillah and Aji Fatou Jammeh
Courtesy of Department of Information Services