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Agricultural Spectrum: The Gambia granted US$28m to boost agricultural development

Jun 12, 2012, 1:15 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

With The Gambia has been granted US$28m by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), according to a joint announcement made last week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Solomon Owens, the Minister for Agriculture.

The GAFSP is a multilateral funding mechanism which seeks to assist in the implementation of pledges made by the G20 in Pittsburgh in September 2009. The objective is to address underfunding of the agriculture and food security strategic investment plans already being developed by countries in consultation with donors and other stakeholders at country level.

This is in line with commitments made by the G20 to make aid contributions towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1, which seeks to cut hunger and poverty in half by 2015.

The GAFSP resources given to The Gambia will focus on boosting household food security and nutritional levels, increasing levels of sustainable production and productivity through improved land and water management technologies, and strengthening smallholder agricultural competitiveness.

The FAO Banjul office played an instrumental role in securing the grant for The Gambia. Speaking last week, Mr Owens said: “Within the framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programmme (CAADP), the government of The Gambia took the first step in March 2010 by requesting technical assistance from the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations in formulating a concept note that would form the basis of a medium-term investment programme with the view to access financing through the multi-donor Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme.”

Mr Owens said the development objective of the GAFSP proposal parallels The Gambia Investment Plan, with the aimed of increasing the agriculture and natural resources sector’s contribution to economic growth through commercialisation.

He also said that the FAO worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to formulate The Gambia’s GAFSP proposal. A joint session was organised among donors, the UN country team and the government and a consensus was eventually reached in which the parties agreed the priority areas for agricultural investment.

According to Mr Owens, the priorities include water and soil management, market promotion for smallholder agriculture, support to post-harvest storage, and improved access to medium term rural finance.

Also speaking last week, Babagana Ahmadu, the FOA country representative, praised the technical team that formulated the Gambian proposal. The team was led by former environment minister Kotu Cham.

Mr Ahmadu said: “This just the beginning. We still have long way to go and there is lot of work to be done.”

“The work started far back in March 2010…We were told about the need for the government to demonstrate its commitment by allocating at least 10% of the national budget to agriculture. When we started, the allocation was about 2%, so we needed to do a lot of advocacy and we visited Finance. We did lot advocacy for them to increase budgetary allocation to agriculture, and we engaged parliament to address this issue. We think we have achieved something because the budget allocation is currently around 6%.”

He also commended all those who worked on the proposal, including farmer’s organisations, partners and stakeholders.

Abdoulie Baks Touray, Chief Executive officer of SAHEL Investment Group and the President of the American Chamber of Commerce based in Banjul, and who also took part in the drafting of the proposal, said: “This document is home grown. It is designed, implemented and executed to perfection by Gambians. One message I want get across is that Gambians are competent. Capability, conviction and capacity: if you add those forces together you get success.”