By Omar Bah
The Islamic Development Bank and the Ministry of Finance under the Central Projects Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture have commenced the implementation of the USD 300M project designed to improve rice production in the country.
Officials of the Islamic Development Bank and Gambia Government authorities yesterday concluded a two-day consultation workshop on the project theme: Rice value-chain Development in the Gambia at Senegambia Beach Hotel.
In statement read on his behalf by Juldeh Ceesay, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs said the dependency on imports to meet the national rice deficit is in no doubt disposing the food security situation in the country to the vulnerability of volatile global market trends.
This, the minister added, depleted the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
He said the Gambia earns USD 80 million from tourism in 2017 and spends USD 74 Million to import rice in the same year.
This, he added, indicates the increase in rice production will not only ensure food security but will also ensure macroeconomic stability including stability of the national currency.
“With observed trends in the decline of rice production in the country; over the years, I urged to leave no stone unturned in the first step to solving the country’s rice needs as this forum presents those opportunities,” he added.
He said the result of the forum will have positive impact on the overall national socioeconomic growth and the ultimate goal of the Government to utilize innovative measures to effect a shift from the old subsistence rice production system to a vibrant commercially oriented production system with an enhanced value addition.
Women, he added, as the crucial players in the country’s rice production must be central in any process of ensuring rice self-sufficiency.
“Equally important in the country’s rice development process are our traditional partners such as UN agencies, NGOs and the civil society Organizations,” he added.
He said every Gambian consumes 117kg of rice per annum “this is far above the world average of 56.9kg per annum. However, while we consume that much rice, our national rice production is just about 17% of our needs leaving us to import more than 80% of our rice needs.”
The representative of African Development Bank and coordinator special initiatives, Ken John as rice yields decreases by 8% per annum, rice import in the Gambia is increasing at the rate of 4% per annum.
He said meeting the growing domestic demand for rice and reducing the country’s dependence on imports will require a paradigm shift.
Momodou L. Ceesay of the Islamic Development Bank IDB said the initial estimated investment of the program is USD 300 million of which IDB is expected to finance USD175 million through the Lives and Livelihood Fund (LLF) that includes 30% grant component.
“USD 25 million will come from 10 beneficiary countries and USD 100 million from development partners targeting direct beneficiaries of around two million households,” he stated.
The beneficiary countries include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Sudan.