President Adama Barrow has given his blessings to a major food security drive by The Gambia Armed Forces to begin large scale agricultural production in The Gambia. In his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defense, respectively, President Barrow last Monday received stakeholders of the scheme – the command of the armed forces and their partners from South Africa, AGCO Corporation – to acquire firsthand detailed information about the fundamental components of the project.
Following a comprehensive engagement, the president was visibly excited about the prospects of the plan in ensuring meaningful changes that could benefit ordinary Gambians. He assured the leadership of the Armed Forces and the investment partners of his office’s support to bring the objectives of this project to success. The President added that such initiatives present ample opportunities for members of the security services to acquire useful lifelong skills that could be used even after active duties.
The AGCO Corporation, which is an American Company that has its regional headquarters in South Africa, is a global leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of agricultural equipment. The company has similar partnerships with the Egyptian army and other military entities in Africa and around the world to optimise the potentials of their militaries.
According to officials, their partnership in The Gambia will involve youth, women, small-holder farmers that include a strong network of operators in the production, supply, and processing of agricultural produces exported to the outside world.
Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Massaneh Kinteh, who accompanied the delegation, explained that the military’s involvement in agricultural production is a part of its constitutional requirement. The Armed forces, as part of the ongoing reforms, is looking at diversifying its roles and responsibilities in order to reposition itself in the productive sectors of The Gambia.
“We are looking at a whole range of agricultural production, from rice to moringa, aquaculture to ruminants and red meat to white meat,” the army chief said.
“It will be different from the past when people engaged in some low level practices. Rather, we want the millions being spent on the purchase of meat, rice or fish for the army to be invested elsewhere in our needs”.
CDS Kinteh expressed assurance that Gaf has the capacity to feed the nation and export outside of this country while lauding the political, financial, and technical support the project has received thus far.
Nuradin Osman, vice president and general manager of the Africa Group of the ACGO said their company is the third largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment in the world, and second in poultry productions and eggs. The project concept is to take security beyond the armed security to food security.
“The Army has the best engineering department. It has a formidable health unit. Hence including agriculture will give the opportunity to create a skilled labour that will help the entire nation to achieve the food security that Gambia needs,” he explained, announcing that feasibility studies is underway and that machinery and equipment will arrive shortly.
Osman said The Gambia has everything that the project needs to make it a success. “A youthful population, plenty of fertile land, fresh water from the river and six months of annual rains.”
Seedy Lette, a former Gambian envoy to South Africa and the executive chairman of Global Africa Integrated Farms, PTY Ltd, said the fact that the military is a disciplined force, and that the security reform process is ongoing forms the basis of their choice as partners for this project.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr Cherno Barry, moderated the presentation.