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Sunday, January 24, 2021

OJ criticises FAO award to The Gambia

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On the 30 November, in Rome, The Gambia was recognised alongside 12 countries by the FAO for her “outstanding progress in fighting hunger”, an achievement which includes reaching international targets ahead of the end-of-2015 deadline.

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The other country recipients were Brazil, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Iran, Kiribati, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, the Philippines and Uruguay.  The “Hunger Fighting Award” from FAO was recently presented to President Jammeh at State House.

But the first republican minister was unhappy.  He countered: “The FAO award, for me, is a joke. Because if two months ago the UN declared, and you people published it in your newspapers, that 200, 000 Gambians are urgently in need of food aid and 80,000 of which are suffering from malnutrition and 30,000 out of the same 200,000 are children who are suffering from acute malnutrition and they should be given food aid, I cannot understand why the FAO can say The Gambia has made progress in agriculture. 

“With the downward trend of all produce in agriculture in this country since 1994, it will be very wrong and very unprofessional for the FAO to gauge The Gambia’s agricultural progress basing it on Kanilai Farms. As a former agriculture minister, I stand firm by the belief that the FAO’s assessment on The Gambia is flawed. I don’t know what measurements they used, but I believe it is faulty and baseless. Gambians are starving, and how can the FAO reach this conclusion?” he said. 

Mr Jallow also criticised the government’s “late announcement” of producer prices for groundnut. He said this announcement should have been made since November,

“As a former agriculture minister and a Gambian, Iknow that 80% of the Gambian population depend on agriculture with most being groundnut producers… Since colonial days, the Ministry of Agriculture and the government of the day, knowing that farmers only have money once a year, particularly groundnut farmers, make the announcements on groundnut prices early. But up till now, the government has failed to tell the farmers what their plans are regarding buying their peanuts.

“What is keeping the government from coming out and telling the farmers what is happening?. Today is 23rd of December when the trade season should have been in full operation. This government has not only refused to announce the price at which they will buy groundnuts but even decided not to talk about the date. 

“A vision and a programme of agriculture which should benefit Gambians and make Gambians self-sufficient should not be based on a pronouncement as the Vision 2016 but should rather be based on a well-thought out policy prepared by competent agriculturalist. Before 1994, we were producing 46% of our agricultural needs and this has now gone down to 15 to 16%. 

“Any genuine Vision 2016 should start with buying the groundnuts of the farmers. Development starts with people and ends with people because it is the people who elect the president,” he said.  


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By Omar Bah Veteran politician and former minister in both the Jawara and Barrow governments Omar Jallow (OJ), has advised the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations...
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