By Olimatou Coker
The Central River Region South (CRRS) Regional Agriculture Directorate recently organized a field day event in the Madina Nfally Rice Fields on the “increasing access and adoption of improved climate-smart technologies and innovations: High-yielding, early maturing, drought resistant and salt tolerant seeds varieties for farmers”. The outreach event was supported by the Central Projects Coordinating Unit (CPCU) under the Ministry of Agriculture through the World Bank-funded Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV).
The event was graced by over 80 participants including Deputy Governor, CRR, Hon. Sainey Mbye, the Director General, Department of Agriculture, Dr. Saikou Sanyang, National Assembly Member for Lower Fulladou, Hon. Gibi Mballow, senior government officials, and more than 40 farmers and Agriculture Extension workers drawn from across the region. The climax of the event was the presentation of seven motorcycles to the CRRS Regional Agriculture Director by the DG, DoA, Dr. Saikou Sanyang through the Deputy Governor. The motorcycles formed part of the consignment of 50 that the GIRAV project procured for the DoA with the sole aim of easing mobility and enhancing the work of frontline extension workers.
In his welcome remarks, Ali Jawo, Regional Agriculture Director for CRR South, explained that the purpose of the field day is to showcase the excellent performance of one of the farmers who benefitted from this year’s seed aid from the GIRAV project. He noted that 5.20 Metric Tonnes of Certified Maize seeds and 40 Metric Tonnes of certified Rice seeds [of different varieties) were distributed amongst farmers in CRRS thanks to the benevolence of the GIRAV project. Jawo also used the opportunity to acknowledge the support the project has been providing to his directorate in the discharge of its duties.
Amadou Bah, communications officer for the GIRAV project/CPCU speaking on behalf of the CPCU/GIRAV Project Coordinator Abdoulie Touray explained that GIRAV is a five-year World Bank-funded project through a grant amounting to US$40 million. The objective of the project is to support the development of an inclusive and competitive agriculture value chain, focusing on smallholder farmers and agri-entrepreneurs across all seven agricultural regions of the country.
He said: “In April/May this year, the project procured climate-smart seeds worth over D13 million and on the 2nd June 2022, The Government of the Gambia and the World Bank handed over the consignment of high-quality certified seeds to the Director General of the Department of Agriculture for onward distribution amongst over 12,000 smallholder farmers across the country. The support included 50 metric tons of maize and 200 metric tons of rice. 50MT of maize and 20MT of rice worth D4,028,000 was sourced from Senegal whilst the 180 MT of rice worth D9million was locally sourced from Maruo Farms (who works closely with you the farmers here in CRRS and thus injecting a lot of money into the local economy.
“The intervention falls within the framework of component 2 (of the project) which aims at Building a productive and climate-resilient agri-food system to increase agricultural productivity through climate-smart intensification of selected productive systems focusing on enhancing water management and fostering access to improved technologies and innovations”.
Bah further noted that the project is directly targeting over 50, 000 farmers (40% women and 30% youths) across the five priority value chains namely Rice, Maize, vegetables including mango, Cashew, and Poultry.
Dr.Saikou E. Sanyang, Director General, Department of Agriculture, underscored the importance of agriculture towards the attainment of national development priorities. He stressed the need for concerted actions to boost production and productivity and the income of farmers since they are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
Dr. Sanyang expressed gratitude to the World Bank and the Government for the GIRAV project noting that “GIRAV is here to empower farmers”. He singled out inadequate motorcycles for the extension workers as a huge challenge that his department has been grappling with but noted that the project is helping to address it by providing them with 50 motorcycles.
“This support will facilitate the work of the extension agent. The field day is also meant for learning and showing new things that we bring to give our farmers and to take advice in order to get more developments”.
Alhagie Sillah, a farmer,of Madina Nfally who hosted the field day at his 5-hectare plot informed that he received the variety called “Faro 44” from the project through the CRRS. He expressed satisfaction with the variety. He used the forum to appeal for support to help address water challenges in the field to enable them to embark on both dry-season and rainy-season production. Bengal Kanteh, another farmer also thanked the GIRAV project for the assistance and called on his fellow farmers to make the best use of this opportunity by GIRAV.
For his part, Hon. Sainey Mbye, Deputy Governor, CRR praised the GIRAV Project and the Ministry of Agriculture for the laudable initiative. He used the opportunity to call for a change of mindsets and attitudes towards farming to help the country become food self-sufficient. He stressed that Government can only create the enabling environment for the development of agriculture. All and sundry must come on board to invest and engage in agriculture to spur economic growth, he stressed.
Other speakers included Hon. Gibi Mballow, National Assembly Member of Lower Fulladu, and Isatou Sillah, Village Extension Worker based at Jahally.