By Omar Bah
A US-based Gambian investor has urged the government to consider establishing an agricultural investment bank to boost the sector.
The founder and CEO of Gikay Farms, Muhammed Jawara, told The Standard: “The objective of the bank should be to boost agricultural production and revenues in order to contribute to the improved food security of the country and in order to attenuate the consequences of increasing climatic variability.”
Jawara said for agriculture to thrive investors should have access to finance. “There are many Gambians who have visions for agriculture but they don’t have the capital to do it. I am not old enough to remember what was here in the 1980s but I understand there used to be a development bank that gave loans to farmers. We need something of that nature to avert the frustration investors face in accessing funds from our banks,” he added. Jawara said accessing loans in the Gambia is a nightmare.
“Imagine having a D300, 000 transaction with a bank within a short period of time, and you are denied a loan of $20, 000 from that bank. What does that actually tell you about the availability of capital or issues of finance in this country?” he asked.
He said the government should also work on providing an environment where investors in the agricultural sector would have the confidence to invest in the sector.
The United States civil servant said the government should also take the issue of land grabbing as “a serious security threat”.
“The issue of land is an existential threat for this country because you have people going all over the map turning all farmlands into real estates and the majority of these real estates don’t have what it takes to be one. They don’t bring any social amenities, they just go to places and grab people’s lands and the environment is not created for people to defend themselves against these people,” he observed.
Mr. Jawara said the government should create a system where the issue of land “can be addressed” as it represents the biggest security challenge for the government.
“The ministry of lands should be modernised to address the many issues that are going on there. If we are willing to address these challenges and I think the president is looking at a lot of these things, I hope he will put the right people in those positions to address these challenges,” he said.