Achieving food security

Thursday, October 05, 2017

We have heard loud and clear the pronouncement made by the agriculture minister that our nation should attain food self-sufficiency in two years’ time.

While it is good to think and aim big, it is vital to note that food security can hardly be attained where agriculture is not properly catered for, or where most of our mainstream foods are imported from other nations. Similarly, it is also unthinkable where our core produce is largely depending on rain-fed agriculture, and where thorough agricultural projects are hardly completed or implemented successfully.

Our agriculture minister has expressed optimism in saying that food self-sufficiency for The Gambia “would be achieved within two years”.

According to him, new projects and strategies have been put in place to meet the demand of the Gambian people, and that in the next two years there are all indications that The Gambia will be food self-sufficient, as the country has the land, and the most navigable river, with fresh water.

While this is true and attainable - where the right policies and steps are taken – we still find it baffling to comprehend that our nation, which largely depends on the produce and products of other nations, can be food self-sufficient or attain food security in two years’ time without putting in place the right mechanisms, conditions and investment for achieving food security in twenty-four months.

We will be pleased and happy to see that miracle works here in two years, but many a time such pronouncements have been made, without realising the expected results, by agriculture ministers and even the former president, who had also pronounced that “by 2016 The Gambia would not import rice anymore and would even export rice to other nations”.

We can still achieve such a dream, if we work out our development plans well and give agriculture the importance it deserves.

Mere wishes, propositions and banking on the produce, aid, grant and support of other nations or institutions will never bring about the agricultural revolution and the food self-sufficiency we so need in this country.

We need a well-thought out agricultural path to follow that will take us to the realm of food self-sufficiency. Wishes and dependency would not work; success in agricultural growth deserves much more than empty rhetoric. It should be a well-calculated plan, backed by skillful, committed and action-oriented people would steer the affairs of the sector.

It has been re-echoed that The Gambia has continued to battle with food security lapses over the years.

This situation is said to be caused by several factors, among which are low agricultural productivity, high cost of production and the lack of modern techniques and technologies.

Among others, one area facing serious challenges in the agricultural life of the country is the livestock sector, according to official reports.

This situation seeks the attention of the general public, especially the corporate family and economic operators in the country, not only the government.

It is essential that more investments with well-thought out progressive business plans are carried out in the agricultural sector by both foreign and indigenous investors.

It is clear that the government still has a lot to do to put things right in the agriculture sector.

The challenges outlined as militating against food security in the country, such as low agricultural productivity, high costs of production and the lack of modern techniques and technology, are not insurmountable.

It only takes proper planning and policies, as well as concerted efforts and serious investments to overcome these challenges and realise growth and improvement in agriculture.

It is, therefore, essential that well-thought out investment plans are strategised to overcome the challenges faced in the sector. 

According to FAO, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, which meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Let’s plan well, materialise and implement our plans; we can, as Barak Obama said, do it.

“Innovations that are guided by smallholder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and environment will be necessary to ensure food security in the future.”

Bill Gates