By Alagie Manneh
Even before the dust settled at the site of Saturday’s inauguration of The Gambia’s Smart Farming Project, Latrikunda Sabiji lawmaker Yahya Menteng Sanyang of the opposition UDP has questioned the viability of the project trumpeted by the authorities to transform the country’s agricultural sector.
On Saturday, President Barrow launched the initiative, expressing his government’s wish that it would serve as a propellant for a decrease in youth unemployment and food self-sufficiency.
However, in his reaction Mr Sanyang, an outspoken government critic, said such initiatives are not viable for countries like The Gambia.
“It is not a realistic venture for a country like The Gambia and I dare say the project too may fail because to start with, in The Gambia, the average farm size is less than two hectares which is too small to justify the heavy investments in smart farming technologies,” he said.
He added that the land tenure system in the country could also be another bottleneck to the realisation of the project’s objectives.
“Land tenure is insecure in The Gambia and this makes it difficult for farmers to invest in long term improvements to their farms, such as smart farming technologies. Climate change is another factor, especially in The Gambia where farmers don’t have the required knowledge on climate patterns,” he argued.
He said another problem could be that there is likely to be a lack of government support especially financial incentives, tax breaks and technical assistance.
“The ministry of agriculture doesn’t have the necessary requirements by way of personnel and knowledge to make smart agriculture successful in The Gambia and our farmers are not educated and trained on the complex nature of smart farming technologies,” he said.
Mr Sanyang however said there is abundant potential for smart farming in The Gambia to work in some way or form, “but President Barrow cannot effectively maximise these potentials.”
“With the right support, knowledge and training smart farming could play a major role in transforming Gambia’s agriculture, but certainly not under President Barrow’s leadership,” Sanyang warned.