Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM
The 8th Cabinet Retreat got under way in Kanilai Tuesday, presided over by President Yahya Jammeh and attended by ministers and senior government officials, GRTS television news reported last night.
The three-day retreat is being held after President Jammeh’s 2014 meet-the-people-tour, which focused this year on his Vision 2016 plan for national food security.
Delivering the keynote statement, President Jammeh said Vision 2016 is achievable, and that The Gambia needs not to import rice, the staple food, as there is land, water and other resources in abundance to make this happen.
He warned that food has become a weapon in international and inter-state relations.
“Food is a weapon, whether we like it or not; it is a weapon today. I won’t name the country. But most of you would know that the last time we had food crisis, a particular country stated that we must free certain prisoners, who have committed serious crimes against the state…in order for them to give us food aid…”
He went on to state that no country, including The Gambia can achieve meaningful development in the face of food insecurity.
Jammeh said his government’s agricultural policy aims to promote food self-sufficiency and to export food, thus the importance of agro-industries and food processing as a major element of Vision 2016.
He pointed out that the alternative to food self-sufficiency is to rely on imported food, which has health implications.
“Let us remember that what we produce is for ourselves. What we eat will determine our state of health, and how long we live.”
The Vice President, Isatou Njie Saidy, speaking at the same forum declared: “I want every sector to see yourself in Vision 2016; because if we don’t we might think that its only for agriculture…Its not only that, like the president always says – ‘a hungry man is an angry man’ – that’s not the only reason; but for independence and dignity.”
In a statement delivered on his behalf, the secretary general and head of the civil service, Momodou Sabally, said the retreat provides the interface between policymakers and those who implement.
He noted that the retreat was being held after this year’s tour of the country by the head of state, during which he unveiled his Vision 2016 agenda.