A case for Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Agriculture in practical terms is the most important source of food and feed. WHO regards poor nutrition as the single most important threat to world health.  Agriculture’s contribution to health and productivity is therefore significant. The potential of agriculture’s overall contribution to GDP is often underestimated and inadequately reflected in national development budget allocations, with sometimes detrimental consequences for national development.

Media reports indicate that poor nutrition (insufficient or poor-quality food) is prevalent in our country. Malnutrition affects children (with stunting and irreversible undesirable effects later in life), pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly. Partly as a result of changing eating habits, the incidence of non-communicable diseases is also high.

The Gambia’s agriculture faces serious challenges including climate change, food and nutrition insecurity, malnutrition, poverty and in general the failure of farming to attract educated youth, triggering off rural-urban drift.

Ongoing projects on school feeding and fortified food are commendable but require monitoring their impact. For sustainability, agricultural research should also focus more on developing quality crops varieties rich in essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins A and B1. In his interesting rather provocative article – The Point Newspaper of January 9, 2018 – “Gambia’s backbone (Agriculture) is broke and needs an urgent operation to fix it “Mr. Muhammad L. Darboe hinted at genuine reforms.

Food is a predominant sector of Agriculture. Justifiably, ministries of agriculture and food exist in our sub region and elsewhere, including some developed countries. Maybe New Gambia could also consider the advisability of setting up an empowered Ministry of Agriculture and Food to be responsible for initiating and implementing, as applicable, relevant innovative policies, programs and projects and coordinate all related activities.

A Guest Editorial