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City of Banjul
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Food: between import and local production

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Food security means that all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate foods, for an active and health life. Agriculture as an industry needs to work closely with other sectors to make this happen.  It is not simply a matter of how much food is needed and the amounts of agricultural growth required. The issue of importing food and producing food locally has been at the core of the conversation.

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Regrettably, Africa’s dependence on imported food continues to increase each year, signalling several dangers, beginning with the fact that in an emergency we could not feed ourselves. Such an emergency, while possible, is unlikely. But a more immediate danger is that a global shortage of an imported food, which is a staple of our diet, could pose severe hardships in nutritional and financial terms.


Clearly, Africa would not be able to achieve food security unless it succeeds in drastically reducing poverty which undermines its production capacity. This view is supported by activities on the home front. The government of President Jammeh is buoyed with optimism and it believes that promoting local production is what is needed to achieve food security. However, it admits that we should act more and speak less. 


There is the widespread consensus that agricultural development in the various regions of the world has always been the product of sovereign will and a partnership between the states and the economic actors. These actors include the producers, the processors and the traders.  It is only when we muster the sovereign will and put our shoulders to the wheel that we can take such direction. 


It is not a premature view that we should stop begging from donors and importing food. There is a bigger need to promote local production. Investment is the key in this and the public sector should not marginalise but rather encourage other stakeholders. Policies – agricultural polices – that benefit urban consumers at the expense of rural producers should be stopped. 


To be fair, the key cause of food insecurity is inadequate food production. Since the global food crisis of 2007–2008, there has been an increasing awareness throughout the world that we must produce more and better food; and we should not be derailed from this goal. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, which needs and wants to make its own green revolution.


Nonetheless, there remain enormous challenges to achieve it at the global and regional scale but it is important that countries are realising that they need to tackle food security in the long term rather than food shortage in the short term. Boosting agricultural and food production in Africa and The Gambia in particular should now be the foundation of our work. We must take this work to the next level of performance through local production.


Practical action should be our most efficient method – ensuring that our environment can be as productive as possible, while sustaining the environment, and that the food produced can be delivered as locally as possible. To do this, our small-scale farmers, livestock keepers and fisherfolk need support to cultivate their land, raise their animals and nurture their fishstocks and to be able to distribute their fresh and stored produce efficiently. All these aspects would promote a sustainable and healthy food system and would as well ensure there is enough food for everyone in the country.


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