By Aji Fatou Faal
The Permanent Secretary No.1 at the Ministry of Agriculture has revealed that the Gambia’s delicate agro-ecology requires best modern crop improvement outputs to increase crop yields, widen crop adaption, enhance overall production, combat pests, and minimize the effect of drought and calamities.
Hassan Jallow made these remarks on Tuesday during a validation workshop of the updated National Seed Policy at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Senegambia.
The National Seed policy was update through a European Union funded project titled: ‘Agriculture for Economic Growth’ and being implemented by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
He said that seed sector stakeholders would recall that the original National Seed Policy document was prepared and adopted in 2008. The policy, which can be considered as a statement of intent by the government, is meant to provide a well-defined and stable framework for the development of an effective and sustainable seed sector, a prerequisite for the agriculture transformation that they seek.
According to him, the seed policy must also create an environment which would foster cooperation between and all the partners and stakeholders who perform roles in the seed and seed-related sectors of agriculture.
According to him, farming in The Gambia has depended for centuries on traditional seed saving practices and while these practices confer some advantages, these are overwhelming issues and concerns which compel them to adopt improved and modern technologies to combine with their time tested indigenous knowledge.
For her part, Sirra Bah, FAO Rep said in 1990s when there were groundnut seed shortages, FAO facilitated that supply of huge tonnages of emergency seeds to affected farmers adding that this brought the awareness that the National Seed Programme needs to be strategically positioned so as to minimize such incidences.
Thus, she said that FAO’s assistance in the formulation and adoption of the National Seed Policy in 2008 was quickly followed by the establishment of the Quality Declared Seed System of quality assurance and establishment of a seed testing laboratory at NARI. This was followed with the strengthening of the previous Seed Technology Unit at NARI and the formation of the first ever Seed Grower Association with responsibility to multiply improved seeds generated from research to meet the needs of farmers.
Dr. Dorel, EU Rep stated that at the start of 2017 the EU took the decision to allocate 20.5 million Euros from the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) to the Gambia. He also noted that the programme cost of 1.2 billion dalasis has three components. The components include: (1) FAO ‘Agriculture for Economic Growth’ (2) WFP ‘School meals and Disaster Risk Management; and (3) NGOs ‘Support to the 11th EDF agriculture for economic growth and food security\nutrition to mitigate migration programme.
He opined that the overall intervention of the project has designed to take into account the potential agriculture sector offers for exclusive growth, improved food security and poverty reduction. “It recognizes the areas of potential improvement in areas of research and extension system that could lead to upgraded farming practices and pest control; higher yields; larger arable land irrigation; better storage facilitate and other structures; enhanced entrepreneurial culture; improved access to markets, market information and especially to finance, credit and insurance; better food safety and quality control; increased smallholder producers participation in value chains and end final products to the markets; improved value-addition and processing facilities products and better linkages within and between the value chains, improved organization and policy framework for cooperatives.”
Morro Manga, director of National Seed Secretariat, said the document they are validating has been formulated in 2008 and after 10 years of operations, there is need to update it to reflect current realities, conform to new objective and address newly emerged issues. He averred that it is therefore necessary for this document to be validated by the stakeholders to engender national ownership and build up support for the implementation.