During the recent State Opening of the National Assembly, the Gambian leader had said he would ban the importation of locally grown vegetables in order to create more economic opportunities for local women vegetable gardeners.
That decision has sparked a war of words between two political heavyweights representing polar positions in the political spectrum. While OJ opines that the ban will worsen economic status of the women gardeners, FTJ sees it as an opportunity for them to improve their own economic condition through creativity, energy and prudence.
OJ said: “The ban on vegetable importation is one of the worst policies I have heard since 1994. Before 1994, as I said in many interviews before, Gambia exported 90 tons of vegetables every Thursday and that has stopped over 15 to 16 years ago due to bad government policies and approaches. And all the vegetable gardens that were established in the country with the assistance of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Sukuta, Brufut and all other big villages and towns are not as prosperous as they used to be. And not only that but because of the expansion of the Greater Banjul Area, the demand for vegetables has gone up to the level that our depleting local produce cannot meet the local demand.
“Therefore, people from Nyanbato in Senegal bring their produce here and give it to our women traders wholesale and they come and resell it to the people. 85 percent of these traders are women and we know the role that the women play in the socio-economic development of this country. These women also have a family responsibility that they have to take care of and banning their imports affects their earning capacity.”
According to him, the argument that when we allow the women traders to bring their vegetables in there will be market glut and our home growers can’t have market is unjustifiable.
The reason for the glut, he argued, is that women grow the same types of crops at the same time and when there is harvest, all the similar vegetables they cultivate arrive at the market at the same time causing unnecessary market excess of that type of vegetable.
He then suggested thus: “What a government should do is to build the capacity of these women to understand the importance of diversification in crop production if the capacity to store the produce for long is not there as it is the case in this country. So in Senegal, vegetable production is all year round and that is why their produce keep flowing in from Cassamance and that not only saves our women traders but also helps avoid the scarcity of horticultural produce in the country. I call on the President to lift the ban and go back to the drawing board with his ministers and make sure that they come up with policies and programmes that will, in two years, make us sufficient in horticultural produces.”
By contrast, FTJ insisted in an interview with The Standard that OJ had missed the point, saying that the “ban was only to encourage women gardeners”.
He added: “What a critic like OJ wants us to do is to deny our hard-working women of state protection. How can we allow basic things we grow here like onions, tomatoes, cabbage and others [to be imported into the country]? So what we wanted to do is to protect [the local growers] so that our people can invest more in horticultural production and that can only happen if there is huge demand in the market.
“Our people can grow in large quantities without having to bother about unnecessary market glut that is induced externally. If one cultivates crops today and the outcomes become good because of good market access, that person will be encouraged to double cultivation the year that follows. We have storage facilities; in fact, he may have argued that they are not sufficient and these produce won’t even have to wait to be in those storage facilities because the market will consume it. That is what this policy aims to trigger.
“If we want to encourage more people to plough lands, we must make sure that they have adequate income and access to market and this is one way of assuring that. If the women folks know that they have these numbers of people to satisfy with horticultural produce, they will double their capacity because they know the turn-over will be good. I am disappointed this sort of analysis is coming from a former agricultural minister. This is just an encouragement to the women farmers.”]]>