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Farmers should be trained to explore regional markets – Expert

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Former head of agricultural division at the ECOWAS Commission Ernest Aubee has said that Gambian farmers need to be trained on organic agriculture and value chain for international markets.

Mr Aubee was speaking at a regional meeting on organic agriculture and agroecology in West Africa focused on the transformation of ecological organic agriculture in the region.

He said most Gambian farmers are not connected to regional markets designed to boost regional trade among member countries.

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“I have observed that most farmers sell their products at the lumo and border villages which is not at their advantage. Also, most of the women farmers involved in vegetable gardening lack proper storage facilities and major processing facilities are limited for them to export their products to regional markets and international trade fairs,” he said.

He added that EOA’s require the involvement of both the public and private sector.

“The government should involve the private sector as partners in development for policy formulation and the creation of the needed environment for the private sector to thrive and encourage domestic and foreign direct investment in EOA’s infrastructure,” he noted.

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The experienced agric experts added that ECOWAS member states should be mainstreaming organic ecological agriculture into national development policies for food and nutritional security.

He argued that member states have limited investments at country levels and are not adhering to funding commitments of the Maputo and Malabo Declarations for the agricultural sector.

“There is huge unexplored land for organic agriculture in West Africa. Since 2015, organic farming globally grew from USD $150.63 billion in 2021 to USD $169.04 billion in 2022,” he added.

He said the absence of standards reduces the level of competitiveness of African products in the domestic and international markets.

“Most African countries are part of EOA’s various treaties and protocol standards but implementation has been a challenged,” he stated.

The promotion of EOA, Aubee added, will contribute to the attainment of climate change, desertification, and biodiversity goals.

“Capacity building is also very key; we need to train different stakeholders on the EOA value chain create of markets at all levels and as well as take advantage of regional and international trade agreements provided by the AfCFTA,” he added.

Aubee stressed that it will be impossible to eradicate conventional agricultural practices but stakeholders can join hands through a transitional arrangement to promote ecological organic agriculture in a coordinated and sustainable manner.

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