May 12, 2008, 5:04 AM
The principal programme officer and head of the agriculture division at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, Ernest Aubee has revealed that The Gambia is the latest country to join 12 other African countries to benefit from implementation of a new project called “AFLA SAFE initiative” project.
The project, which was launched recently by the ECOWAS Commission and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture based in Abuja, is expected to last five years in The Gambia and would be hosted at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).
Mr Aubee who was speaking in an interview, said the AFLASAFE initiative is a programme designed to protect Gambian agricultural produce from been infected with AFLOCOXIN.
He said AFLOCOXIN is a micro-toxin that affects groundnuts, cereals, maize, and other crops, adding that it was because of the problem of AFLOCOXIN that the IITA has developed a chemical that could control the AFLOCOXIN up to 90 percent.
Therefore, he added, the IITA and the ECOWAS delegation came to The Gambia two weeks ago to discuss with the government to include The Gambia in this new initiative, which would help to protect our groundnuts, maize, and other cereal crops and also help our livestock.
During their visit to The Gambia, the delegation visited the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Solomon Owen, Health Minister Hon. Omar Sey and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to introduce this new project to them on behalf of the Gambian people.
He said this AFLASAFE initiative is a product that farmers can apply in the field, and it would control AFLOCOXIN in the field and even in the stores.
According to Mr Aubee, this was a very good product that has been tested and implemented by 12 other African countries, and The Gambia is the latest country to join the initiative, whose project would be at NARI.
Mr Aubee said that AFLOCOXIN is a micro toxin that affects groundnuts, cereals, maize and other grains, which can lead to health challenges such as liver cancer.
He said the initiative is important from three reasons: It would help to increase agricultural yields, especial for groundnuts; if it can be controlled, it would help to reduce the occurrence of liver cancer and hypertension in human beings; and it would also help to promote trade and food safety and food security at the international standard.
According to Mr Aubee, this new initiative is in line with the President’s Vision 2016.
Regarding the ECOWAS and IITA delegation’s visit to The Gambia, Mr Aubee said the ministers were very enthusiastic about such a project, because from the agricultural perspective The Gambia wants to increase production and productivity of groundnuts, maize and other crops.
“So having such mechanism and strategy to control this fungai disease would help to boost production, and it can help Gambia be free from AFLOCOXIN and promote the health aspect of our citizens and our product can be accepted both nationally and at the international market for the benefit the farmers,” he said.
He also stated that, as a Gambian and head of the agriculture division of the ECOWAS Commission, he was very delighted to associate himself with such an initiative, to see his country meet the requirements to benefit directly from the ECOWAS Commission and IITA package to boost our agricultural productivity.
Aubee described Vision 2016 as “a very good pronouncement made by the Gambia leader and timely,” adding that “it is only in that way that we can achieve food security through adopting a very radical aggressive approach to producing food.”
He said the ECOWAS Commission was excited with such a radical initiative and would support it, describing Vision 2016 as a way of addressing poverty, livelihoods and employment, and “it also in line with the ECOWAS agricultural policy which has been in existence since 2005.”
Dr Ranajit, a senior pathologist who was head of the delegation from International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), was highly impressed for the fact that The Gambia has got all the structures to work on AFlOCOXIN, with places like MRC researching on AFLOCOXIN issues, and the Gambia Groundnut Corporation, GGC, which is the main marketing body for groundnuts in the country.
He also expressed delight with the opportunities accorded to his delegation to meet the various ministers and managing directors in The Gambia to share with them their mission to The Gambia.
According to him, during their visit, the delegation was impressed by the institutional framework in The Gambia, and also the regulatory and legislative arrangement for AFLOCOXIN control in The Gambia, despite the size of the country.
“Gambia has all the institutions to address the challenges, and also has the regulation and the laws, as well as the commitment of the government to control the AFLOCOXIN infestation in The Gambia,” he said.