The Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association of the Gambia dubbed ASTAGAM has officially launched its twelve years of existence on Wednesday 9th May, 2018 at the Regional Education Directorate, Brikama.
The ceremony which attracted students and lecturers from both Gambia College and the University of The Gambia, the invited dignitaries and cross section of the society was commemorated under the theme: “PURSUE A CAREER IN AGRICULTURE.”
In his launch speech, the President of the association, Mr. Yorro Jallow gave the genesis of his association, saying that its membership is restrictively open to only Agricultural Science teachers in the country.
“ASTAGAM was formed in 2006 to address issues affecting the teaching of Agricultural Science in schools, and to foster a strong sense of unity and collaboration between Agricultural Science teachers in Gambian schools,” he said.
President Jallow recounted some of his association’s remarkable breakthroughs including the planting of economic trees in school project taking shape nationwide is meant to eradicate hunger and poverty, while lamented over what he called ‘the surmountable challenges’ persistently confronting their operations. He further implored on the ministries of Basic and Secondary Education and the Agriculture and other agencies to support them in overcoming the obstacles the association is currently facing with especially a functional office.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Adama Jimba Jobe, the Deputy Permanent Secretary hailed the initiative noting that its emergence is indeed timely and very appropriate, as well as linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He argued that teachers are agents of change, and therefore they are very instrumental in actualizing a hunger free Gambia with a positive change of attitude.
DPS Jobe urged ASTAGAM to be steadfast, patient, and perseverant in the execution of its functions. Jobe remarked that the fight against hunger and poverty is necessary because he believes that a hungry nation is an angry nation. He challenged ASTAGAM to broaden its membership to bring on board all the Agricultural Science teachers in Gambian schools for greater output and efficiency.
The famous Gambian Kora maestro, Jaliba Kuyateh and adopted father of the association expressed satisfaction of the giant and grave step taken by ASTAGAM to combat hunger and poverty through practical agriculture starting from the school level. He however stated that government should come up with a vibrant and productive agro-based industry that would help create lots of jobs for young people and improve lives and livelihoods of the people thereby reducing poverty and hunger.
In his address, honourable Omar J. Jallow, the minister for Agriculture and guest speaker of the day thanked the executive of ASTAGAM for what coming up with such a laudable initiative. Minister Jallow said the agricultural sector is hugely lucrative, and worth pursuing a meaningful career, and therefore the involvement and participation of young people is crucial in the collective fight against hunger and poverty. He called on young people to be patient, tolerant, open-minded, accepting, perseverant, and avoid being unreasonably confrontational in our match to make the sector more attractive and sustainable. He reassured his ministry’s resolve and commitment to end importation of foodstuff especially rice in The Gambia; the country invests 80 million Dollars on rice import annually.
To curb this phenomenon, his ministry will entice investors to promote and strengthen rice cultivation, as well as horticulture and livestock farming. “This year alone the ministry has built sixty gardens with bore holes, wells and fence for women across the country,” he proudly said. OJ Jallow reiterated his ministry’s will to diversifying into massive rice production as the rice production has suffered a significant decline (45% to 15%) from 1994 to 2016. He posited that rice production at Jahally Pacharr in CRR will be maximized for the realization of food self-sufficiency and independence. In achieving this, the army has a pivotal role to play referencing India and Pakistan. Jallow enjoined the students to take up their studies very serious while challenged Gambia College and the UTG to inculcate into the minds of young people the significance of agriculture especially in the fight against malnutrition and its related diseases in The Gambia.
This remarkable event was punctuated and characterised by questions and answers session as highly critical issues on the growth and advancement of the Agricultural sector in the country were raised and discussed.