By Maimuna Sey-Jawo
Claudiana Cole, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education on behalf of the Vice President and the Minister of Women’s Affairs, on Wednesday presided over the launch of the Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security/Nutrition to Mitigate Migration Flows.
The four-year project funded by the European Union is aimed at contributing to sustainable growth in the agricultural sector and reducing food insecurity and malnutrition to mitigate migration flows to Europe.
The project is in line with The Gambia national development priorities and it will be implemented in North Bank, Lower, Central and Upper River Regions through targeted interventions, including school meals, agricultural investment and disaster risk management.
Minister Cole said the success of the project will lie in its ability to establish adequate market linkages between the key stakeholders in marketing, namely, financial service providers, business development service providers (BDS), farmer organization (cooperatives/kafos/associations/, market actors among others.
“The Gambia Government applauds the European Commission’s initiative to invest in agricultural development in The Gambia through a partnership with the UN FAO and WFP,” she noted.
Minister Cole said the project will focus on resilience building to climate change, sustainable natural resources management, market-oriented agricultural and natural resources sector development and most importantly make agriculture attractive to the youthful population.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in The Gambia, Dr. Perpetua Katepa Kalala, said migration in The Gambia, particular in the rural areas is contributing to a market reduction in agricultural labor supply, affecting output and quality, adding that since 2013, irregular migration to Europe has growth significantly.
“Under these circumstances, as the country has a limited natural resource endowment, the agriculture sector should continue to be given special attention and modernized in a specific manner in order to generate growth and employment, both in the rural areas and within the value chains,” she added.
The Director General of Agriculture, Shariyan Jobarteh, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, said: “We live in a time of dramatic global changes. Enough food is being produced in the world today. However, climate change, conflicts, migration and political marginalization of the poor are all contributing to the hunger that exists in many areas.”
The EU Programme Manager, Darrell Sexstone, said overall the programme aims to create growth and employment opportunities, in particular for women and youth, through improved agricultural productivity as well as access to food, whilst at the same time increasing most vulnerable smallholders’ participation in value chains.
Madam Magdalek Moshi, WFP Representative disclosed that WFP will coordinate the implementation of the two main components of this assistance. “The first is the provision of daily nutritious school meals, using local foods purchased from local smallholder farmers such as rice, maize, millet, beans or ‘Nyebeh’ as we call it in The Gambia, groundnuts, and green leafy vegetables.” This component, Magdalek Moshi, added will target 64, 000 children in NBR and CRR where food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty rates are high.