By Aisha Tamba
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has over the weekend launched a one-million-dollar matching grant to agricultural enterprises in the country under the Roots project. The GCCI is the implementers of the Public Private Producer Partnership (4P) component of the Roots project and the matching grant is aimed to support small and medium enterprises [SMEs] and farmer organisations interested in public private producer partnership arrangements.
The matching grant also aims to finance post-harvest and value-addition business plans proposed by eligible entities in the agriculture sector as well as encourages the participation of “green” SMEs, which dedicate a significant portion of their investments to activities such as renewable energy generation, recycling and waste reduction, sustainable packaging, low or zero carbon footprint equipment, and transformation/value addition of certified organic agriculture production.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, the president of the board of directors of GCCI Edrissa Mass Jobe, said the project will go a long way in solving the unemployment issues in the country.
Mr Jobe revealed agriculture can solve the current unemployment level in The Gambia. “We have to start to focus on production by the masses. We need to keep the people employed and by that, we can do it through people like the entrepreneurs who can provide and create the jobs,” he said.
He added: “We have seen that most enterprises that went into agriculture and food production have failed. But we are hoping that you the young generation have ideas that are completely different from ours and I hope that the people who are going to apply this million-dollar project have the right emotion and edge to prove to the world we can do it”.
The GCC1 boss further urged policy-makers to sit down with private sector to support young entrepreneurs in the country. “We are having a lot of help from the government but it is not the help that we need. We are hoping that this new partnership will lead to meaningful progress and lasting impact,” he said.
He expressed hope that this new project will further strengthen their partnership and collaboration with the ministries of trade and agriculture, adding that at the level of the chamber, they will make sure that the project is applied and implemented properly, and champion food security and sovereignty in the country.
The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fatou Jammeh Touray, said the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing an 80-million-dollar project called ROOTS which is expected to run for six years and it is targeting the most vulnerable famers who are feeding ‘us as a country.’
She said the project aims to focus on the crop producers and all the players of the agricultural value chain through a matching grant. “It is also targeting the women who have been feeding us as a country and the youths.”
Ms Jammeh hopes that the project will be implemented as expected and the impact will be duly felt as equally expected. “And it will change the lives of a group of people who have all along been tilling and ploughing land and benefiting very little. Gone are those days when projects will come, be implemented and we keep on asking ourselves, ‘what have we done’? We are hopeful that by the end of this project, the impact will be felt by the people who need it most and will be sustainable so that other projects will continue from what has been achieved and not starting afresh,” DPS Jammeh-Touray said.
The minister for Trade Bubacarr Joof said cooperative is an instrument that complements producers’ activity in agriculture that this country needs and unless we as a country can marry cooperative and agriculture, we will continue to face a challenge in production and productivity. The minster revealed that the bigger challenge is aggregating resources from smallholders and making that look big in the eyes of the trade ministry. “This is the relationship that we need as the ministry of trade. The ministry of trade has recently launched a new initiative that links farmers, traders, and marketers and that is the need and the cooperative will play a key role in linking the producers to the market,” he said.
Minister Joof gave Malawi as an example. “That country starved over the last two decades but they are able to transform and today they are exporting food. How they do it is through a combination of commercial production with smallholder activities like we are doing here,” he said.
The Resilience of Organizations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Project (ROOTS) is a collaborative investment between the Government of the Gambia, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), private sector and the Smallholder farmers within the project intervention areas.
Other project donors include Agence Francaise de Development, Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund. With funding of USD 80million, the six-year project will be implemented through three components, with Component Two concentrating on access to market.