By Saidou Baldeh
ActionAid International The Gambia Thursday inaugurated a D1.2 billion climate resilience and sustainable agriculture demonstration farm.
Entitled Promoting Agro-ecology and eco-restoration practices in Southern Central River and North Bank regions of The Gambia, the project will be implemented in 30 communities across the beneficiary regions in close collaboration with Njawara Agricultural Training Centre.
It is expected to benefit 34, 000 people.
Omar Badjie, executive director of ActionAid International – The Gambia, said because of climate change, the lives and livelihood of farmers are negatively impacted which is why they developed the resilience sustainability project.
He said an estimated17 percent of the Gambian population has migrated and as such, draining the rural areas active labour force.
He said resilience building and adaption of good farming practices is key to development, stressing that the farm must be open to all those who need it, particularly women and youth but also urged beneficiaries to take care of the farm for its sustainability.
“People have lost interest, hope and trust in agriculture due to climate change,” he remarked.
Darrell Sexstone, EU Delegation programme manager, said by focusing on women and youth in particular, the intention is to provide viable alternatives to migration to urban areas or even Europe, through providing them with the necessary knowledge, skills and inputs to engage in sustainable agro-ecology farming practices for food security and gainful employment within their communities as well as contribute to restoration of the local eco-systems.
He observed that at present, agriculture is not attractive for youth as there are low prices for agricultural produce, a weakness of basic services in rural areas and a lack of connectivity.
“The adaption of eco-restoration and agro-ecological approaches could be essential to change these trends and make agriculture more attractive to the youth by fostering higher prices for organic produce, for production diversity and lowering dependency on external inputs and making farming a lifestyle choice again”, he observed.
Bai Jabang, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, said the project is well aligned with the prioritisation of agriculture in the National Development Plan of The Gambia government. He said it is also in line with The Gambia’s National Agriculture Investment and the Ecowas agricultural programme.
Fanta Jatta-Sowe, head of programmes and policy at ActionAid International The Gambia, said ActionAid believes in empowering communities and bringing development to them.
“For us to continue living we have to co-exist with the environment. Our attitude and behaviors contribute negatively or positively in impacting the environment.”
Mama Manneh, director of Njawara Agricultural Training Centre, deliberated on the negative consequences of climate change and its effects on the livelihood of beneficiary communities.
He said they expect things to be learnt at the demonstration farm to support communities to be resilient in the face of climate change.
The overall objective of the project is to contribute to job creation and food security for women and youth through agro-ecology and resilience building to mitigate climate change and irregular migration.