The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley, yesterday presided at the signing of a contribution agreement for 2.64 million euros (equivalent to about D100 million) between the European Union and the World Food Programme to foster the realisation of food security in The Gambia.
Held at the Ministry's conference hall in Banjul, the signing ceremony brought together officials from the Gambia government, European Union and World Food Programme.
Speaking at the ceremony, Kolley said the recent financial crisis had exacerbated the problems associated with food security, and caused a decline in government revenue as well as reduced economic activities in the country. He noted that the main sources of income from remittances and the tourism sector witnessed a decline.
"For the local population, the high global food prices during 2008 resulted in almost a 50 percent increase in local staple food prices, thus significantly eroding their purchasing power," he added.
Mr Kolley further noted that part of the funds allocated have been earmarked for supporting the implementation of an ongoing project of the World Food Programme and for the creation of a Vulnerability and Analysis Mapping, which is in line with the government's identification of the key necessary actions in the sector.
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Kolley further stated that the project would specifically address the following areas: Extend the coverage of the food safety net mechanism through a safety net intervention; improve the targeting and response mechanism for assisting vulnerable populations, mostly affected by the food and financial crisis, and to also help protect vulnerable households from declining purchasing capacities and food price shocks.
He also pointed out that the project will directly encourage school enrolment, and improve the retention and performance of children in class.
Kolley thanked the EU and WFP for their support to the Gambia government.
Speaking earlier, Helene Cave European Union Charge d'affaires said the recent food crisis was an unforeseen event, thus the EU decided to assist those countries badly affected.
She commended the Vice President of the Gambia for the prompt establishment of a National Task Force on Food Security as part of preparations for an adequate response to the soaring food prices.
Helene Cave revealed that very soon the EU would finance another project worth 5.3 million euro under the Global Food Crisis Response Programme to finance an agriculture production project targeting the nine most vulnerable rural districts in the country to the food crisis.
Malcolm Robert Dutthie WFP Representative in The Gambia also spoke at the ceremony, which was chaired by Serign Cham the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.