By Olimatou Coker
Food fortification, the practice of adding nutrition to plants or food to improve the nutrition intake of population, is set to change lives and livelihood in the country, if the findings of a recent official national assessment is anything to go by.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Department of Agriculture, and National Seed Secretariat recently took stock of the implementation of its EU-funded project that aims to improve food security and nutrition in The Gambia.
The project envisages enhancing the nutritional and health status of vulnerable populations suffering from micronutrient deficiencies throughout The Gambia, particularly women, girls, and children in The North Bank and Central River regions.
Sariyang MK. Jobarteh, Deputy Director Department of Agriculture, said the objective of these 5 days assessment was to assess the willingness of farmers to adopt new varieties of orange fleshed sweet potatoes and many other bio fortified crops that were distributed to them during the season and to assess production levels compared with last year.
“We have realized that the desired results have been achieved and many farmers are now planting this new fortified variety of crops to fight against hunger and to ensure that the malnutrition situation of the country is alleviated, we aim to ensure that the population of the Gambian realize the importance of biofortified varieties of crops and they try to use it as part of increasing their nutritious and health status in The Gambia,” he said.
Mr. Jobarteh added that this project also aims to improve the food system of the country. “We can improve it through either supply value chain management or value chain actor management because breeders, seed growers, distributors and also the farmers are all important actors in the value change. They need to work in harmony to ensure that farming becomes business as usual, but through plant breeding and modification of plant genetics it becomes business unusual”.
While noting that the stakeholders need to ensure continuous provision of this improved variety of seeds to ensure that farmers benefit from it. “We should also make sure that once this is produced, the market is available by liking farmers to their local marketing federations. We must also create links to other market outlets to encourage many more farmers to produce more.”
Jobarteh added that producing these improved crop varieties has two main advantages; one is for consumption and the other is for marketing. “While consumption is important for nourishment, the marketing aspect is as significant, because that allows us to earn money so that we can have a better lifestyle. So considering these two important things together is a primary objective of producing biofortified crops.
“We are trying to transform our agricultural system into a more commercial-oriented one so that many people can get into it and food production will become reality and we will be able to maintain and balance the country’s food system and make it nutritious and try to fight elements that are affecting our health status,” he explained.