By Olimatou Coker
Samba Bah, Governor of the Upper River Region (URR), has applauded the GIRAV project for developing and rolling out a digital platform for the registration of beneficiaries of the project.
The Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV) is a five-year 40 million US Dollar grant from the World Bank. The project aims to support and promote the development of inclusive, resilient, and competitive market oriented agricultural value chains (rice, maize, horticulture including mango, cashew and poultry) with specific focus on smallholder farmers and agri-businesses.
Bah made these remarks on Thursday during the monitoring visit at Giroba Kunda Mixed Farming center in Tumana District,where he witnessed the distribution of rice seeds to farmers by agriculture extension workers using tablets provided by the project to ensure accurate data collection to feed the platform.
Governor Bah was accompanied to the center by the Agriculture Director for URR John Mendy and personnel of the GIRAV project on a nationwide Post-Seeds Distribution Monitoring Mission. The team was led by Abdoulie Touray, Coordinator of the GIRAV Project who also doubles as the Coordinator of the Central Projects Coordinating Unit under the Ministry of Agriculture.
It could be recalled that the Department of Agriculture (DoA) on Thursday 22nd June 2023 began distributing an assortment of certified climate smart seeds worth over D21,902,000.00 (US$353,258.06) million targeting mainly food and seed insecure farmers across the country for the 2023 cropping season. The consignment comprises 100 Metric Tons of certified maize (4 varieties) and 150 metric tons of certified rice (7 varieties).
Two of the rice varieties (named WARR 77 and ISRIZ 10) are salt tolerant and are also suitable for both lowland and irrigated ecologies, two varieties (named WAB105 and NERICA 8) are suitable for both lowland and upland and one variety (named FARO 44) is suitable for upland and irrigated fields. All the five varieties of maize (named Obatampa, Suwan 2, Early Thai and Kabamanoj F1) are for upland ecology only.
130 MT of certified rice of 4 varieties worth D9,750,000.00 million (US$157,258.06) was locally sourced from Maruo Farms. The remaining stock consisting of 100MT of certified maize seeds of 4 varieties worth D10,315,870 (US$166,385.00) and 20MT of certified rice seeds of 3 varieties worth D1,836,130.00 million (US$29,615.00) which were not available locally were sourced from Senegal.
DOA is one of the 18 Implementing Partners of the project. Within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) DoA has signed with the GIRAV project, DoA through its decentralised structure deployed more than 100 extension workers across the country to digitally register the farmers receiving the seeds. Each extension work or is equipped with a tablet and the technical know-how by the project to ensure real-time data collection and reporting to the central CPCU database daily.
Governor Bah and entourage witnessed how the digital inputs distribution process works. He was highly impressed and said: “This approach is indeed very fascinating. It is transparent and accountable. The fact that the profiles of the beneficiaries, the quantities and types of seeds given to them are all gathered and stored digitally make it easy to hold them to account.
Prior to this innovation, people used to gather at the “Bantaba” for input distribution. Accurate data on the beneficiaries used to be a huge challenge. But with this new approach adopted by the GIRAV project, there is no discrimination in the process. Beneficiaries are identified and given the seeds through a very transparent process because the beneficiary needs to answer some questions before he or she is given the seeds. This means that anybody who gets the seeds knows that you are now qualified and therefore you must also engage in farming because the expectation is that you will cultivate the seeds and contribute to increased food production and economic growth.
“This new approach taken by the GIRAV project will help promote the government’s drive to intensify commercial agriculture. We have been doing subsistence farming for far too long and yet still we have not gone anywhere. But I think with this method, if we are able to do it right, then we will be able to produce more and be able to supply our markets with the food that we need and thus reduce our high dependency on imported foods. So, the GIRAV project is out to help us transform our agriculture. I am calling on the people of the URR to come forward and receive the seeds and farm.
“As much as the government is willing to invest and willing to work with the development partners and donors for them to invest into agriculture in this country, it is also the sole responsibility of the farmers for them to be responsible and account for the seeds given to them. I enjoin all the farmers to make good use of the knowledge and expertise of the agriculture extension workers to help them increase their yields and incomes”.
Governor Bah used the opportunity to thank the GIRAV project team, the ministry of agriculture, the Government of the Gambia and the World Bank for what he described as a laudable cause.
Maimuna Baldeh, a farmer from Giroba-Kunda who received a 20kg bag of rice seed.
“I am grateful to the government and the World Bank for this assistance. I am told that this is an early maturing and high yielding variety. I am therefore optimistic that within the next three months, my household will have something healthy and nutritious to consume. I’m also advising the farmers who have received the seeds to make best use of them.”
Ousainou Baldeh, also a beneficiary of the GIRAV Maize seed at Giroba-Kunda thanked the government and the World Bank.
He reported that farmers who received the GIRAV maize seeds in their community in 2022 including himself realized a bumper harvest. He said: “I sold the surplus maize I got last year and bought two cows. This means that not only has the project boosted our food security, but it also helped increase our income as well as build our assets. I am calling on every farmer who is privileged to access these seeds to cultivate it and also adhere to the agronomic practices recommended by the extension workers to increase their yields and incomes.”