in Sukuta village, Niani District of Central River Region’s have feared that
they may continue to suffer a bad harvest from their rice fields due to the
frequent invasion of hippos which remain a major threat to their
The field measuring 175 hectare is located near the river where a joint United Nations agencies intervention led by the Food and Agricultural Organisation employed some farmers who rehabilitated a 3 km of access road to the rice field and 5 km of the main 3 feeder irrigation canals connecting the rice field to River Gambia was also cleared.
“Even though one side of the field is fenced, the farmers still face serious threat from the Hippos,” regional Red Cross manager of CRR north and south, Pa Musa Kijera said. He said even with the fenced areas, Hippos would still break into the rice fields and cause substantial damage which threatens farmers’ production.
The road rehabilitation and canal construction in which farmers were employed was under the “Cash For Work” initiative; a sub-component of a €11.5 million European Union funded project name “Post Crisis-Response to Food and Nutrition Insecurity in The Gambia,” executed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and The United National Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The project is being implemented in the North Bank, Lover River, Central River and Upper River regions with FAO serving as the lead agency.
“The rehabilitation of the feeder road linking us to the rice field has reduced difficulty of transporting our produce to home,” Marang Ceesay, one of the farmers said. She said before, they will harvest their rice and will have problems in transporting them due to the dilapidated road condition.
She said they are hopeful of having bumper harvest if support is given to them in the areas of machineries, fertilizer and fencing the perimeter of the rice field to prevent hippo invasion and destruction.
The farm coordinator, Duta Kanteh said the project intervention would increase their production to become self-sufficient in rice. “Last Saturday alone, more than 300 bags of rice were bought by people who received their wages from the project. If this kind of project continues to come, it will greatly increase the rate of irregular migration and rural-urban drift,” he said.
Jahally and Pacharr and Niani Sukuta rice fields used to be supported by the Chinese during Gambia’s first republic with year-round production, but they left after former President Jammeh cut ties with the government of China shortly after taking over the country’s leadership in 1994. Since then, FAO and other agencies have been helping in the revitalisation of the fields. “But hippos have been destroying our fields. There was a flood from Kuntaur last year which also affected our production,” Mr. Kanteh said.