The Gambia is an agrarian country of which rice remains the staple food. Supporting and empowering farmers to increase agricultural production and productivity will certainly guide the country towards self-sufficiency in food.
The news of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations employment of farmers in the Central River Region to revive some major rice fields by constructing culverts and canals to supply water to the fields is a creditable initiative.
Reports have shown that the initiative; name “Work for Cash” has employed more than 7000 farmers, young and old to construct the culverts and canals at their own rice fields for a period of six months in which more than 12 million dalasis was paid to them as salaries. In fact the most heart relieving part of it is that the initiative has encouraged young people to stay and work to be paid a salary of 3, 600 dalasi every month.
Reports have also indicated that the initiative has reduced rural-urban drift and the escalating rate of irregular migration.
The Gambia has vast and fertile arable land, which, if seriously tilled can feed the entire nation on rice and other agricultural products. To leave politics aside, former President Yahya Jammeh’s targeted initiative which was meant to ensure Gambians feed themselves from their own agricultural produce is not a farfetched dream; it can be achieved. It will only require a change of attitude and more support from international agencies like FAO, WFP, UNICEF and the government itself.
It is disheartening to see Gambia and many other African countries still importing foodstuff like rice, onion and others since their gaining of independence; several decades ago.
The Gambia must now be thinking of how to feed itself and not relying on imported food that stays in store for month if not years before reaching us. We are really consuming rice and other food stuff that are produced years before reaching us. Gambia’s fertile lands can produce enough rice, onion, both late and early millet and other agricultural products that can be sufficient enough to feed the nation.
The ball is now in the government’s and the peoples’ court to decide whether to remain a major importer or to start devising strategies to till the land and feed ourselves from homegrown food products.
“The Gambia must now be thinking of how to feed itself and not relying on imported food”