By Tabora Bojang
Opposition leader Essa Mbaye Faal has said the country’s food problem is deep and require incisive and targeted policy interventions to revive the agricultural sector and end the country’s economic woes.
In his Tobaski message Mr Faal who contested the last presidential election on an independent ticket said had it not been remittances from abroad the farming community would face a disaster as a result of the global food crises.
“I have consistently stated that a country that cannot feed itself is doomed. This Tobaski has further exposed that fact in the extremely high cost of rams. If there were no diaspora remittances it would have been a disaster for many homes. I once again call for diaspora Gambians be taken more seriously and be accorded those services that will not only enhance and strengthen their financial interventions in the country, but also their roots, commitment and patriotism towards the country. That said, we should deeply reflect on the declining agricultural sector and adopt such measures that would reverse the tide. The whole back way syndrome and the rural-urban drift is fed by the lack of opportunities and any meaningful agricultural activities in the provinces” Mr Faal said,
He added that the high cost of ram highlighted the fact that that the country will continue to throw its scarce foreign currency on importing sheep ‘if we do not breed sheep locally’.
According to him The Gambia should learn from the successes of the Senegalese government who were in a similar situation but used their border crises with Mauritania to develop a policy of promoting local livestock breeding.
“Today Senegal’s Tobaski ram imports have reduced significantly to the extent that most of Gambia’s supplies are taken from there. We can adopt similar policies that are tailor-made to suit the Gambian reality. Senegal also directly intervened in their then declining agriculture by adopting the Jahally-Pachar-like rice and food production project. Today, if you visit the Walo area, it is teeming with young men and women working in these farms. Senegal copied this from us and it worked. We can study why it worked for them and failed for us and make those changes that will make it also work for us in The Gambia,” Faal advised.
He said the country is blessed with a peaceful conducive atmosphere, a fertile land and the young population that can make agriculture thrive.
“If agriculture is revived in a meaningful way, not only will we be able to feed ourselves, but also many of our young people will choose to return to farming instead of braving the desert and the Mediterranean to go to Europe through the back way”, he observed.