By Olimatou Coker
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Department of Agriculture, and National Seed Secretariat embarked on a five-day national assessment to take stock of the progress of implementation of its EU-funded project that aims to improve food security and nutrition in The Gambia through food fortification.
The project envisages enhancing the nutritional and health status of vulnerable populations suffering from micronutrient deficiencies throughout The Gambia, particularly women, girls, and children. It is being implemented in the Gambia’s North Bank and Central River regions.
This is expected to contribute to improvements in health and nutrition indicators, primarily the reduction of stunting and wasting and normal cognitive development in children and reduced anemia among women, as well as a reduction in complications during pregnancy and maternal mortality.
Furthermore, the proposed action can help to fill gaps by providing technical support for legislation development, awareness-raising and capacity building at the community level, and institutional strengthening.
One of the project’s outputs include improving social marketing and communication with integrated nutrition interventions.
Adama Jallow, a research officer at NARI who is also in charge of the Horticulture Unit explained that during their last training, they stressed the importance of biofortified orange fresh sweet potatoes during one of the community engagements in Kuntaur Fula Kunda.
“We mention that this new variety has more vitamins than the other ones because if you look at that their colors are not even the same,” Jallow explained.
According to Jallow, the new varieties given to farmers as part of the project have more vitamins and higher nutrient content than their previous varieties.
He disclosed that the farmers were also trained in different methods of producing sweet potatoes like vine mutilation.
Jallow called on the government to ensure farmers are supported to ensure the issues of malnutrition will be resolved in the country.
“I am calling on the government to intervene and help this farmer and they should also help with projects that include biofortified crops,” Jallow said.
Kumba Jallow, A beneficiary and a farmer in Jahuar Mandinka in CRR North who has an OFSP Vine Multiplier, gave a clean testimony on the importance of the project, saying it will go a long way in promoting the health status of young mothers.
“NARI introduced this orange sweet potato and trained us on to how we can take care of this potato to be very good, there is benefiting our kids are home because now they hardly cry of hunger since the coming of this project in our village here, and in health wise these Fortified Orange Sweet Potatoes, it’s very good for pregnant women because it helps them in giving blood.”
She also urged partners, especially the Gambia government, to help provide a market for them to sell out their potatoes and other vegetables after harvesting them.
Madou Camara, also a farmer in Kuntaur Fula Kunda, said the FAO and partners visiting his farm is very important to him because as a farmer, these are the kinds of things they normally want their partners to see their work and tell them about what they need to improve.
“I have been working as a potato farmer for 20 years now in the country and the importance of potato and most especially this orange fresh sweet potato to our health cannot be over emphasizes”
Camara called on partners to help them train the farmers to be more educated in what they do to become successful farmers to be the pump with more good varieties like they recently did.
Sulyman Cessay, District Extension Supervisor and Camp Manager of Mamut Fana mix Farming Centre, Said they have different kinds of vines that were registered including the 5 vines of orange fresh sweet potatoes, and the one they have is called Somiyaa, said they also have different vines around the camp here as well.
“Looking at these new varieties that we at our disposal here is like it is more nutritious than the local varieties we have here”.
Satou Hatta Ceesay, a farmer in Mamut Fana, said: “In the past, our children’s weights were dull during their post-antinal period before the arrival of this biofortified orange fresh sweet potato variety, but since this variety has been introduced, our child’s health status has improved significantly because whenever we take our children to the hospital for their monthly post-antinal, they weigh very well.”
She said the importance is not only on the potato but the leaves are very important as well.