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Agricultural Spectrum: Farmers appeal for food aid, following 2011-2012 farming season failure

Mar 13, 2012, 1:54 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Following the announcement by the ministry of agriculture that 70 percent of crops in the country failed during the past farming season, farmers across the country have joined the government of the Gambia to appeal for food aid.

In our today’s issue of Agricultural Spectrum, which among others seeks to look into the plight of farmers, achievements, constraints as well as challenges in the agriculture sector, we bring you an interview we had with Mr Musa Jawneh, President of the National Farmers Platform, who spoke extensively about the crop failure.

The Gambia government last week appealed for food aid after it said that 70 percent of crops in the country failed during the past farming season, extending the reach of a food crisis already hitting millions of people across Africa’s Sahel strip.

Though a statement from the ministry of Agriculture in Banjul did not give a figure for the number of people needing food aid in the country, reliable official sources said a total of One million, thirty-five thousand people (out of the 1.7 million population) are in need.

The ministry’s statement said the impact of poor rains last year had been exacerbated by high world food prices, crippling household incomes in the West African state, which had ridden out previous food crises.

Aid agencies have warned that some nine million people across Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad are facing another food crisis this year, on the back of poor harvests, high prices, the fall in remittances and conflict.

“The post-harvest assessment of the 2011 farming season, which was characterized by below normal and poorly distributed rainfall, indicated a reduction in total crop production of more than 70 percent,” the ministry said in its statement.

“The poor harvests of rice, groundnuts, millets, maize and sorghum had left villages with just two months of food supplies, down from the usual four to six, at the end of the 2011 harvest,” it added.

The statement said the government could not match the needs to tackle the current food crisis and prepare farmers for the 2012 growing season, and appealed for $23 million in seeds, fertilisers and food aid.

The ministry revealed that the resources urgently needed to realize the above are well beyond what the national capability can guarantee, and thus our resort to asking for external help from our friends and development partners.

Speaking in an interview with Agricultural Spectrum anchorman at his Brikama residence, Musa Jawneh appealed to the international community including the United Nations food agencies, multinational donors, NGOs and the sub-regional bloc ECOWAS to come to their aid by providing farmers with food aid, seeds, fertilizers, farming equipments among others so as to enable them prepare well and avoid a future occurrence of such nature.

According to him, in order to avoid food crisis, all must come together to participate effectively in farming and other agricultural activities to enhance food self sufficiency and security in the Gambia.

He disclosed that the Gambia will need 35,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer including NPK to be able to tackle the challenges facing the agriculture sector.

Jawneh told Agricultural Spectrum that the National Farmers Platform will continue to join others in the campaign for the promotion of food security in the Gambia, while also appealing for more budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector and access to land by women.

Advocacy, he said, is one of the core pillars of the National Farmers Platform. “It is the mandate of the platform to advocate for favorable agricultural policies and improved welfare of the farming communities and population,” he added.

He commended the government through the ministry of agriculture for bringing to the attention of farmers, the failure of the 2011/2012 farming season, noting that poverty coupled with lack of seeds and fertilizer are contributing factors to 2011/12 crop failure.

Jawneh further told Agricultural Spectrum that his team last year went on a countrywide tour to assess the farming season but are yet to release their report.

Noting that God has given man the knowledge to dig water from the ground to benefit themselves, Jawneh said there are countries in the world that has never witness rainfall but continued to feed their people despite those factors.

He advised farmers in their respective regions and districts to organize themselves into small groups to contribute their quota in confronting the looming food crisis, urging them to also engage in small scale businesses.

In his views, farmers should change their attitudes and believe in themselves as their farms are the only place that they can earn their living.

For him, the demands and needs of farmers needs to be given attention at all times to avoid failures in the farming season, stressing that seeds, fertilizers, farms implements among others should be on stock before the commencement of the next farming season.

“Before June, farmers should be in a position to have all their needs in stock,” he said, adding further that government and development partners should convene a forum to find solutions to the problems in order to move forward.

Jawneh also laid blame on the business community and its leaders for not investing and believing in agriculture, which he said, has affected the development of the sector.

He called on the business community to invest in agricultural production and development, noting that this will yield dividend for them in the near future.

He also invites them further to explore the potential in the agricultural sector especially in areas like gardening, animal husbandry, cattle rearing, farming among others.

Agricultural Spectrum catchword of the week: “Let’s believe in our farms!”

Read Agricultural Spectrum every Tuesday for insightful news on the latest and burning issues affecting the agricultural sector in the Gambia.

You can send your comments, suggestions, recommendations, or contributions to saineymarenah@ymail.com or call +220-3471343/6277556