By Olimatou Coker
As part of their efforts to improve the productivity of rice growers, the Resilience of Organisations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture project (ROOTS) has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with AfricaRice focusing on the participatory selection of climate smart and high-yielding varieties and certified rice seed supply within the project intervention regions. At a signing ceremony held at Roots project office in Abuko.
The implementation of this MoU involves key institutions such as the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) the National Seed Secretariat (NSS) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA).
Dr. Baboucarr Manneh, the Director General of AfricaRice, said the performance of the rice sector has really deteriorated. “So if we recall, those days when we were traveling along the heavy highway from Brikama to Basse, rice cultivation that you used to see along the roadside, nowadays a lot of all those areas have shrunk. And even if we look at the statistics, our yields also Gambia is among the few countries in Africa where yields are going down”.
Dr. Manneh described the urgency for collaborative partnership between government and development partners to maximize The Gambia’s potential in rice production.
Mamour Aliue Jagne, the Director of the ROOts Project, said he is hopeful that the agreement with AfricaRice will increase capacity in rice productivity, while recognizing the appointment of Dr. Manneh as the director general of AfricaRice
“Him being the director general and working with AfricanRice opens up so many possibilities, not just for the roots but also for the country. That is why this MoU is very important for us,” he said.
Dr. Demba Jallow, the Director General of NARI, said they cannot choose varieties for farmers, “we can bring all the technologies. We cannot take them because they know their things very well,especially when you are dealing with resource poor farmers, sometimes they think that this store is good enough, but it’s not good enough for a farmer”.
Aliue Sowe, representative of the president of NACOFAG, expressed delight over the initiative. He said this will strengthen the collaboration and technical support to farmers, as the main goal is to improve food security, nutrition and resilience of smallholder farmers to climate change in the Gambia.