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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Farmers urged to focus on drought-resistant crops this year

Speaking to The Standard in an exclusive interview, Dr Yaffa, a member of the national coordinating committee for Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said the fact that rains are coming “very late and very little countrywide…. means drought will kick-in. So that’s a major problem that faces Gambian producers, Gambian farmers and the population at large. 

“The lack of rain which is climate change induced is a reality and it is going to stay with us for a long time coming. So everybody, regardless of your profession is going to be affected – it cuts across all sectors of the Gambian economy…” 

He said the recent FAO report, among others, states that drought is very imminent in the Sahel region this 2014 -2015 cropping seasons. “This means that we are not going to have enough rains to support our major crops we grow in this country… crops like sorghum and millet, etc. So we need to think of something else that is going to help us go through this drought situation. I know it is late for some of the crops to be planted because of some physiological conditions that they have to go through. Without enough moisture, that is going to be impossible,” he explained. 

Dr Yaffa, who asked The Standard to allow him travel upcountry to see firsthand the situation affecting the crop production said he did not know whether the farmers are even aware of this looming drought situation and the measures they have to employ to cope.

“Travelling by the south bank of The Gambia two weeks ago, I have observed, though I have not made any study on it, crops are faring a little fairly and the vegetation is the same between Brikama and Sibanor. From Sibanor to Kalagi it is sparse, not very good – you can hardly see any vegetation growing that has impacted the livestock that we have… A lot of these livestock are losing weight due to lack of forage. From Kalagi to Pakaliba (Brumen Bridge) is the worst. The rest of the South bank one can hardly see evidence of rainfall, it’s like you are in a dry season. From Pakaliba to Brikama-ba, it’s like a similar situation between Brikama and Sibanor in the West Coast Region. From Brikama-ba to Basse is the best one on the south bank where we have a lot of the maize and sorghum crops doing very well. In some other places, you can see groundnuts growing and they are doing very well. 

“Right now, the options that the farmers have is called coping mechanisms – these are short term activities (two to three months) that farmers can do to sustain their livelihood. We also have adaptation measures – activities that go couple of years in case there is drought next year or a year after. If the farmers have information now ahead of time, one of the coping measures they can apply now is to concentrate on gardening activities where they will be able to have access to fresh water to irrigate their vegetable crops, harvest them on time for consumption and sale. 

“Another coping measure can be engaging in sheep and goat fattening programmes. Considering that Tobaski is about two months away, this activity will enable them raise money through selling their sheep and goats and use their proceeds to buy rice (imported of course) to stock up their food storage so they will have enough rice that will take them through six to seven months before the next rainy season.

“The adaptive measures will include to start gathering early maturing and drought-tolerant crops for the next season. In case the drought comes again next year, they will be able to plant those crops. For example, findi, some types of Nerica rice for both low and upper land growers, and some new variety of sorghum, are ideal for such conditions. Otherwise, the crops that we have are not drought tolerant and they take longer time to grow and mature for harvest, and that is going to impact on our livelihood. So they need to get into short-duration crops that are drought tolerant for their food production activities,” he said.


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