The Smart Farming Project, set to be implemented by the National Food Security, Processing, and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC) in partnership with TIJMS Trading International Joint Venture, commences next month. A brainchild of the president, the Smart Farming Project is expecting to transform the country’s decades-long unproductive farming system into a more advanced farming mechanism that would yield dividends for Gambian farmers.
The global farming industry is facing many food safety challenges, like non-standard pest control, varying weather conditions, and unpredictable contamination. These challenges are the source of many diseases that cause great harm to human health. It could also negatively impact the credibility of food producers and manufacturers while exporting food products.
As the food supply chain gets more complex, along with tough local and international food safety regulations, smart farming solutions can transform the way the entire agri-food supply chain is managed.
Recognising these challenges and the global food chain realities, President Adama Barrow and Muhammed Njie, the managing director of the National Food Security, Processing, and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC), through the government’s transformative agenda, introduce the first ever smart farming technology initiative in The Gambia. The managing director is credited with resurrecting the corporation, which has been in a coma for years. MD Njie took over the GGC in a very critical condition, but his perseverance has transformed it into one of the most vibrant government institutions.
The project launched by President Barrow last month, aimed at transforming the country’s agricultural sector, is the latest of his brilliant initiatives. Senior government functionaries, agricultural workers, and members of the farming community were among a glittering array of high-profile guests at the groundbreaking event for the rollout of the Smart Farming Project.
The excitement over the introduction of this new system was palpable at the launch, following years of preparation.
The project will be implemented by the National Food Security, Processing, and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC) in partnership with TIJMS Trading International Joint Venture.
The president of the Gambia Farmers Association, Alhagie Ceesay, made a touching statement at the launch on how Mr Njie has been able to bridge the gap between farmers, his office, and the government.
Addressing the launch in Banjul, President Barrow said heads of public institutions have to see the project as an example of forward-thinking approaches and innovative development.
“Thus, our partnerships ought to be mutually beneficial and aligned with the realities of the people. In the same way, our projects should always be inclusive and multi-faceted enough to effectively solve the growing challenges of our growing youthful population,” he said.
A delighted President Barrow added that the success of the project will surely lead to a decrease in youth unemployment.
“It is a bold step towards food self-sufficiency and will contribute to increased GDP and foreign exchange earnings. It is convincing that, with unity and such support, The Gambia would eventually become a beacon of hope and glory. We can demonstrate how a nation can achieve great things when a people stand together under one unified vision: unified in purpose, unified in strength, and unified in development,” he said.
For his part, Muhammed Njie, the managing director of the NFSPMC, said: “In cognizance of our mandate and in appreciation of the challenges we face as an institution and as a country, the corporation acknowledged the need to delve further into the agricultural production value chain in order to guarantee quality and quantity of produce from the grassroots.
“To be able to compete with international traders, in a fast-evolving industry, there is an urgent need to reinvent our processes locally, develop value-added products, and build the right network to market those products at an optimal level. To do this, after looking at all viable options at our disposal, we found the right partner in Tijms Trading International,” he said.
MD Njie said the ground-breaking project involves a fully functional smart farming concept for twenty-five communities, complete with solar-powered and GPS-controlled drip irrigation systems, agricultural mechanisation equipment, a full-service repair and maintenance facility for equipment, vehicles, and machinery, and the installation of state-of-the-art solar-powered cold storage facilities for storage and processing of produce for export.
“This innovative solution targets a minimum of seven Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from zero hunger to poverty reduction and climate action, amongst others. The Corporation believes that, while it is our responsibility to contribute to our national GDP, it is equally essential that we contribute towards strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable in our communities as a social enterprise,” he said.
For the corporation, Njie added, “This is one of many projects that we will be embarking on in the near future. Our current position has seen the strengthening of our trading arm, which has been a good price stabilizer in the market. As a commercial entity, we are in business to make a profit and to contribute to the government’s development agenda. It is, however, worthy to reiterate that, as a social enterprise, we have very unique obligations to the Gambian people that can never be ignored.”
He said the development of the project came after immense scrutiny of its viability and sustainability.
“As the first of many such projects planned for the next five years, it is important to us that it succeeds in every way we have envisioned. We believe strongly that this multi-million-euro project will not only be a commercial success but will inevitably improve the capacity of our people in one of the most essential industries in modern times,” he noted.
He expressed profound appreciation to President Barrow for his immense support in assisting them in the development agenda.
“The corporation expresses similar sentiments to the ministers of finance and agriculture for their readiness to respond to our strategies and plans and to provide the necessary assistance at all times. In the exercise of our mandate, we continue to assure the government of our resolve to provide innovative solutions to our industry challenges and look forward to the continued and relentless support from the government at all times,” he added.
What is smart farming?
Smart farming focuses on managing farms, plantations, and all associated farming activities using IoT, drones, robotics, machinery, and artificial intelligence to determine a path to predictable farm output.
Smart farming is also focused on the use of data acquired through various sources (historical, geographical, and instrumental) in the management of farm activities.
Differences between traditional and smart farming
Smart farming techniques bring several benefits over conventional farming strategies. Some of these include exercising increased control over production processes, which in turn enhances cost management and reduces waste generation. In addition to this, smart farming, through the implementation of new technology in agriculture, makes it easier to trace anomalies in crop growth as well as livestock health.