Jul 11, 2011, 12:54 PM
observer on developing countries once said, if development is to reach the
people without long waits for its trickle down or spread effects then
development must act directly in the agriculture sector itself. Therefore,
advancing the agriculture sector for food security and sustainable development
becomes a National imperative.
It is bad tendency to idealise the past efforts in agricultural development without admitting its setbacks and doing something about it in concrete terms. In order to properly understand the situation, one must have a framework of leading ideas.
It is an established fact that despite the energies and resources The Gambia is still marching on its stomach and poverty is worsening across the country.
It is shameful that a country of 2 million people could not feed itself. The river Gambia continues to laugh at us for its unutilization to revamp the agriculture sector. Foreign business operators calling themselves Gambians have ensured that we remain a consumer society instead of an exportoriented economy. We continue to depend on imported foodstuff at the expense in many ways of the Nation’s health. We see mayonnaise from Holland, Butter from Germany, rice from India, Pakistan, Brazil, tea from Ceylon and England, Cornflakes from America, Chicken feed from Senegal, mango juice from Saudi Arabia and so forth.
The Gambia has virtually become a consumer society free for all products from any corner of the world. Right now, 80 % of the diseases in the country are attributed to Non Communicable diseases such as High blood, Diabetics, Cholesterol, Hypertension, etc. Gambians will never be well as long as their mouths continue to be elsewhere in the world.
For 54 years The Gambia continues to depend on subsistence farming and rain-fed agriculture which have broken the backs of the farmers and weakened rural communities in terms of socio-economic development. The people have sufferedpoverty for too long due to failures in agriculture, the desire for the enrichment of the few and misplacement of priorities in the development process. This has become manifest in the debates on the 2020 budget in the National Assembly.
Kwame Nkrumah had warned Africa that “every time we import goods which could have been produced or manufactured at home, we are continuing our economic dependence and delaying our economic growth”. In this connection therefore, there is no better strategy to poverty alleviation in Africa and The Gambia in particular than moving agriculture in a rapid and substantial manner. Development is for nothing if it is not felt by the people.
The transformation of the agriculture sector from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation agriculture are the way forward to advancing the country’s economic development and growth. This New orientation should form the cornerstone of agricultural activity. The production pattern in agriculture has to change and to be based on diversification and mostly on irrigation system. The role of government in this process is vital to the prosperity of the country and the people. The donor community should be seen to support the plans of government and not be drivers of the process of agricultural development. The key to sustainable livelihood is for the country to eat what it grows and to grow what it eats. It is high time for government to direct donor money and investors to areas of agriculture that will ensure the empowerment of farmers and that will bring meaningful results in economic development.