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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Women gardeners call for support following ban on vegetable importation

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President Yahya Jammeh last Friday declared the imposition of a ban, effective March 1, on any vegetable produce that is locally grown in order to give ‘more money’ to women in the business of horticulture. 

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Women who welcome the ban said importation of vegetable produce creates a glut in the market, which works to their disadvantage. 

“We are very glad with the ban,” Binta Jabbi, a vegetable gardener in Bakau and a resident of Karchically told The Standard. “The importation of vegetable, especially from Casamance, really affects the marketability of our own vegetables. Growing vegetable crops like cabbage, onion, pepper and lettuce is a very difficult job, yet we continue to waste our labour because when vegetable is imported, we have to either sell ours at cheap prices or let it rot.”

Expressing similar sentiments, Ma-Nyima Darboe said: “Because of importation of vegetable crops, middlemen get more money, perhaps ten times more than women gardeners. We sell it to them at a very low price. If we refuse to sell at low price, our produce will get spoilt.”

The women said they were willing to provide adequate supply of vegetable produce in the market, but expressed concerns over lack of adequate infrastructure. 

“I have no doubt that woman gardeners in this country can satisfy the market needs,” said Abikay Jammeh, a view shared by many other women. 

She added: “But we want the president to help with us. Many women here were last year affected by pests. The pests destroyed our crops. Also, if there is a storage facility, we can keep our produce for a long time. Then, we can get decent payment from our work and adequately take care of our students’ school fees and other needs.”

However, a veteran horticulturalist, who spoke to The Standard on conditions of anonymity, said the ban on vegetable importation was not a good decision. He said: “The Gambia has a very humid climatic condition and we cultivate early perishable vegetable crops which can’t stay with us for long. Also, there are no storage facilities in the country that can help us keep the freshness of these vegetable crops we cultivate here and sustain them for long. The hotel in the long run, when vegetables are  banned from coming into the country, will suffer as well as women traders and even ordinary people. We also need to build the capacity of these women gardeners, provide them with the right pesticides, market access to empower them economically and other things. And these middlemen who are transporting these vegetables are Gambians as well and that is their source of living. So, that is another place where the economics of the decision has failed. In fact, can the Gambian women satisfy the market needs of the vegetable produce? No.”

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