By Tabora Bojang
The Lower Saloum representative at the National Assembly, Sainey Jawara, said despite millions of grants and loans being pumped into the agriculture sector, it remains stagnant due to the “self-centred and pocket serving” officials in the sector.
Jawara, a member of the pro-government National Reconciliation Party, said there are nine ongoing projects in agriculture including the Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV) and the Resilience of Organisations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Project (ROOTS), but none of them “are working to expectations”.
He made these comments yesterday as lawmakers debated and approved the report of the Assembly Select Committee on Agriculture on the financing agreement between The Gambia and the Islamic Development Bank on the regional soil fertility mapping project worth US$1 million (D59.5 million).
“The amount of grants and loans that goes into agriculture is more than any other ministry. But why can’t we fully utilise these opportunities to improve our agricultural sector? We have nine active projects in agriculture and none of them are going as we expected. Go around all the projects today; they have failed. Even the Speaker can bear witness to that. The principal [President Barrow] has to take the bull by the horns to see that our agriculture moves forward. We have many PhD holders in agriculture, so capacity is not the problem. The problem is their attitudes and self-centeredness towards their pockets. We were invited to a meeting in 2021 as part of the ROOTS project and during my deliberations I declared that that the project will fail because it was designed to supplement NEMA which was itself a failure and I have been vindicated,” Jawara charged.
He dismissed as misleading the famous proverb that “the cow feeds where it is tethered”.
He said the people currently managing our agriculture are the same officials who deceived former president Jammeh in his bid to make The Gambia food self-sufficient.
“They did not help him [Jammeh] because they didn’t want him to succeed. They were only interested in sharing the money among themselves and building big houses. We have to reform our people in agriculture. It is not moving forward. Let them know that God is watching over all their actions and that He will hold them to account. We will pass this loan agreement but we will make sure we put our eyes on it. This is not going to be like the D100 million project previously passed by this parliament,” Jawara stressed.
Minority leader and Brikama North representative, Alagie Darboe, averred that there is no excuse for The Gambia to continue its high reliance on food imports if the massive support being given by development partners are appropriately utilised.
He ended with the stark warning: “With the ongoing global crisis hampering all the commodities in our food basket, it is high time we rethink and look at our current situation and utilise the available opportunities to improve our food production, otherwise, one day we will sit here and cry because there will be no food to eat.”