By Olimatou Coker
The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources (MECCNAR) in close collaboration with the MRC unit the Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG at LSHTM) recently held a day-long symposium at the Sir Dawda Kariaba Jawara International Conference Center (OIC).
The purpose of the day-long symposium is meant to disseminate the final finding of food system adaptation in changing environment-Africa (face-Africa) project to policymakers, stakeholders, collaborators, and partners working in the food system, climate change, and health in the Gambia, and also to discuss how the face-Africa scientific team can serve policy needs of the Gambia in the future.
The overall aim of the face-Africa project is to provide a test case for how countries in Africa can develop food systems that are resilient to climate change while improving nutrition and health.
Speaking, Ebrima Jawara, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resource, said the ministry is open to novel and practical solutions for climate change adaptation, especially in the area of the food system. “We are ready to create and enhance positive and sincere partnerships with national and international bodies, knowing the dynamics involved in environmental management and climate change. Indeed, it is a pleasure to acknowledge that the face-Africa project as envisaged, is a sustainable part of the solution”.
DPS Jawara added that the Gambia has recently developed its long-term climate strategy, for achieving low-carbon, climate resilience development by 2050, as called for in the Paris Agreement. It is officially called the Gambia’s long-term climate-neutral development strategy 2050, or LTS, for short.
He also informed the gathering that the LTS was published on the website of the United Nations framework convention on climate change on 23 September 2022.
He said in the fight against the menace of climate change the ministry has developed sustainable policies, including the national climate change policy among others to fill the gaps in food system adaptation.
Professor Rosemary Green, Professor of Climate Food Health, and CO leads of the face Africa project, said the project aims to tackle climate change and also to improve people’s health.
“The main findings of the project are when we looked at the Gambian food system, we found that the diets are actually lower in meat than a lot of other countries in the world, which means that their environmental footprints are lower, which is actually very good for the planet. But there are problems where, for example, people are not eating enough fruits and vegetables and enough whole grains. So their diets are not particularly good for their health. And also they’re quite vulnerable to climate change. And this is because the Gambia has to import a lot of its food, particularly fruit and vegetables, because the crop yields are quite low. And they’re going to be affected a lot more by climate change in the future,” she explained.
“It’s been brilliant working with the Ministry of Environment because they’re so engaged. We work with governments across the world from various countries, and this has been the most engaged government we’ve ever worked with. It’s the ministry here at this event. They’re co-chairing it with us. They want to work with us in the future to do the implementation. And it’s been a really fruitful relationship that we hope is going to continue for the next few years.”
Bubacarr Jallow, deputy permanent secretary technical at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, said in the Gambia, almost 80% of the population depends on agriculture.
“The Ministry has a national climate change policy from 2016. We’re also working on a national climate change act currently and the policy identifies the need to have data and research because climate change is a scientific phenomenon, and to be able to react with adequate scientific data, and then base your response on that. So this has been a challenge.”