By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow yesterday presided over the official inauguration of 50 tractors bought by the government from Japan. The tractors will be distributed to farmers across the country.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony at the New Yundum football field, the president said the handing over of the much-needed agricultural equipment is quite timely.
“The agriculture sector has embarked upon a transformation programme of modernising and mechanising crop and livestock production and processing. This is explicitly captured in the National Development Plan and reflected in the second-generation Gambia National Agriculture Investment Plan, Food and Nutrition Security,” he said.
He said the tractors bought through the KR2 project is pioneered as a rural development strategy targeting developing countries.
“It focuses on commercialising agriculture to effectively enhance production and productivity, specifically targeting underprivileged farmers. With the KR2, it is implemented in the form of selling quality Japanese rice at a subsidised price for under-privileged Gambian farmers,” he said.
The Gambian leader said the proceeds are deposited in a special account at the Central Bank of The Gambia and invested in relevant short or medium-term projects to boost the production and productivity levels of crops and livestock value chains.
“More importantly, these projects seek to improve food security, uplift income statuses and reduce hardship for rural women farmers. In my government’s drive to achieve these objectives, the agriculture sector formulated a mechanisation plan. Thus, supported by our friends, the Government of Japan, fifty (50) tractors and accessories were procured,” Barrow added.
He said the project will focus on sustainability plan development in the form of a business module, with the private sector taking centre stage.
“Wisely, it is premised on lessons learnt from previous agricultural projects in which equipment and materials procured and distributed to farmer groups served for a shorter while than expected. In most cases, this was due to inappropriate use and mismanagement,” he added.
President Barrow said a Public-Private Partnership model has been developed, through which twenty tractors will be allocated to and managed by a competent private individual.
“The remaining thirty will be operated and managed, initially, using the ploughing team model. In this model, youths will be employed and trained to operate the tractors and provide services, such as ploughing, sowing and harvesting to the farming communities across the country,” he said.