Sep 4, 2009, 5:10 AM
Action-Aid The Gambia, in collaboration with its partners last Thursday launched the Policy Study and Community Report on the implications of the 2011/12 food crisis, at a ceremony held at the Sunswing Hotel in Kololi.
The policy process, which was initiated by Action Aid following the 2011/2012 food shortage and the declaration of food emergency by the Government of The Gambia, was meant to analyse the structural (policy) constraints to the realisation of food security in the country.
The study was done in both Senegal and The Gambia, with a view to determining the underlying constraints and the opportunities that exist to build essential networks across the region.
According to the report, the 2011 rainy season was very poor; it was erratic both in terms of total amount and special distribution and it ended abruptly before the normal time.
This, the report revealed, had led to widespread crop failure, a situation which is made worst by the declining soil fertility and poor access to production inputs by farmers.
The impact of this on the farming community varies, depending on many factors, among which, is the quantity of assets at the disposal of a household, the report highlighted.
The report also noted that assessment done by various agencies, including ActionAid revealed that the most affected people in the communities are the elderly, pregnant and lactating women, children, widows, disabled people and female headed households.
In her statement at the launching ceremony, Dr Kujejatou Manneh, the Executive Director of Action Aid The Gambia underscored the importance of deepening examination of the underlying causes of negative effects frequently encountered.
The Gambia’s climate, he said, is semi-arid, with a relatively short rainy season, and erratic rainfall.
According to her, this phenomenon subject the country to periodic but frequent droughts and climate vagaries, which cause crop failures that result in drastic increases in food insecurity, thus making the country very vulnerable, like most Sahelian countries.
‘One such crop failure occurred in the 2011/2012 rainy season which impacted negatively on food production in the country. This as we as saw was followed by serious floods in many parts of the country during the 2012 cropping season further aggravating the food insecurity conditions,’ she stated.
Dr Manneh revealed that in the past five years, the farming community and the urban poor have experienced countless challenges, from rising food prices and severe crop failures, due to successive droughts and flash floods.
Pests and disease infestations for livestock, she added, are also uncommon, as currently evidenced by an outbreak of cattle disease (CBPP – Cattle Bovine Pleuro Pneumonia).
For his part, Bijay Kumar, the Head of International Emergency and Crisis Team, ActionAid International based in London, said looking at the focus of the forum, there is a need for diversification of crops and other combination of mixed crop and other livestock, as well as the need for women’s participation in the decision-making process.
Noting that Action Aid International is ready to incorporate all the concerns raised by farmers for sustainable development, Bijay stressed the need for farmers to invest in the production of rice and other cropping system for better markets.
The launch of the report was attended by John Abuya, International Program Manager, Emergency and Crisis team Africa and Latin America, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Dellaphine B. Rauch-Houskpon, Country Director, Action-Aid International, Senegal.