From 9th June to 12th June 2020, many people gathered at the National Seed Security’s (NSS) foundation seed production field in Sapu, Central River Region. The sounds of harvesting were in the air.
There was a combine harvester stuck with a “China Aid” label, which can unload the grain automatically. With the rapid progress of the machine, ripe rice was harvested and swallowed into its “belly”. Then, the harvester sent the full grain of rice onto a tractor or pickup, which then transported it to the drying floor.
Du Yingchao, an agricultural machinery expert of China-Aid Project of Agriculture Technical Assistance to the Gambia (Chinese Agriculture Team), was busy helping NSS to harvest rice foundation seeds with the Wode combine harvester.
Due to the impact of Covid-19, The Gambia government announced a state of public emergency on 27th March 2020, which has not yet been lifted. The Gambia Central Bank Monetary Policy Committee assessed that the pandemic posted challenges to the country’s economy.
Agriculture is one of the most important pillars of the Gambian economy, and rice is the main food crop in the country. In the face of the current epidemic situation, it is particularly important to ensure the rice production and solve the problem of food shortage. NSS is an important unit of rice seed production, providing foundation seeds for seed growers. Layen Mbye, head of NSS in Sapu, said they were responding to the Agricultural Ministry’s call for getting ready for farming before the rainy season and needed to harvest nine hectares of mature rice as quickly as they could. In the past few weeks, the Chinese Agricultural Team has been helping NSS in Sapu to harvest about five hectares. The rice will be used as foundation seeds, which will be tested immediately after harvesting and then handed over to the certify seeds growers to further produce seeds. Only when NSS completes the harvest of the foundation rice seeds of this season, can the foundation seeds be handed over to the certify seed growers in time, so as to ensure timely production of seeds.
“The harvest time in previous years will probably last for nearly two months and continue into the rainy season, which will have a negative impact on the yield of seeds. This year, Du Yingchao, the agricultural machinery expert from the Chinese Agricultural Group, drove a high-efficiency harvester to help the harvest, which was completed in a few days. I am very happy to express my heartfelt thanks to the support and help that the China Agriculture Group has always given to our work!” Layen Mbye added.
The Chinese Agriculture Team leader Zhang Xiaohui said: “We are all agricultural technicians in The Gambia. As Chinese experts from Team of China-Aid Project of Agriculture Technical Assistance to The Gambia, we should work together with NSS and other units to improve rice production in Sapu and in The Gambia well, and realise the localisation of agricultural technology.”