By Omar Bah
The Minister of Agriculture Omar Jallow, has expressed optimism that the Gambia’s desire for rice self-sufficiency could be realisable in two years, if all plans by his ministry work.
“I believe if all the strategies we put in place and our interest in getting investors into the sector work according to plan, self-sufficiency in rice is possible by Allah’s wish,” Mr Jallow who served as Agriculture minister for the second time, told journalists at his conference room.
OJ further said given the abundance of land, the most navigable water as well as abundance of water underground, the environment is conducive for the modernization of agriculture which will help achieve the country’s ambition for self-sufficiency in the staple food, rice.
OJ’s optimism may ring bells or look similar to former President Jammeh’s many failed promises but according to him, the environment is very different now.
“The difference between us and the former government is that we did not intend to interfere with projects as a government,” he assured.
OJ said if all projected plans and investments are achieved Jahally Pacharr rice field for a example could regain its glory days. “What the Jahally Pacharr rice fields used to produce during the first republic was 50% more than what it produced when Jammeh took-over.
“And the worst part of it all is that all the rice that was milled there used to be taken to Kanilai and nobody knows for what purpose and for who, because we did not even see the rice on sale in our markets,” OJ said.
The Minister further said because of former President Jammeh’s attitude and government policies towards the donors and bilateral friends, “there was resistance from those donors to help that is why agriculture went down in all sectors over the past 22 years.
“We used to be second to Mali in the exportation of cotton, but not even one ton of cotton was exported in the last 17 years. We had one of the best ginneries for cotton in West Africa but that ginnery has not been operational for even one day in the last 17 years,” he claimed.
OJ further disclosed that the rice mill in Kuntaur used to mill five tons of rice a day.
In another development, the Minister said the press-conference was important and it is a demonstration that the open-door policy that the new administration promised is in full swing and running.
Jallow said in the new dispensation the cardinal principle should be openness and transparency in public administration.
“Because if not, there will be a lot of rumors and so much stories that might not serve the interest of the community because they may not be correct,” he added.
He once again reiterated that agricultural officers and workers have nothing to fear in their work as long as they do the right thing, “Yes, 45 members of agriculture officials were dismissed and arrested over the past 22-years, but I want to remind my officials that, there is no reason to fear because the issues of dismissals and arrests will not exist anymore.”
He also called on other government institutions to embrace the press, saying that the press is not an enemy to any government; they are facilitators of views, opinions, criticisms which if is genuine can help government to make rectification.