Feb 23, 2009, 7:14 AM
This was disclosed at the celebration of World Food Day held at the provincial town of Basse in Upper River Region under the theme:“Social Protection and Agriculture-Breaking the bonds of Rural Poverty.”
The Gambia in partnership with UN agencies and other development partners Friday joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Food Day.
Delivering the FAO Director General’s message, the Assistant FAO country representative, Mariatou Njie-Faal, said this year’s World Food Day commemoration coincided with the FAO’s 70th anniversary-70 years of action and operations.
She said October 16 is the 36th year of observance of World Food Day.
This year’s theme is about social protection, includes a blend of policies, strategies, programmes and interventions that aim at protecting poor and food-insecure people, to lift them out of poverty and hunger, she added.
“As a community, we have made real progress in fighting global hunger and poverty in recent decades,” Mrs Njie-Faal said.
According to her,majority of the 72 out of 129 have achieved theMDGs target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment in their population by 2015.
She further stated that the share of people in developing regions who live in extreme poverty has reduced significantly from 34 percent in 1990 to 17 percent this year.
Notwithstanding the efforts, she added, progress had been uneven globally,as some 800 million people continue to suffer from chronic hunger and almost one billion remain trapped in extreme poverty.
Mrs Njie-Faal stated that although agriculture plays a key role in eradicating both poverty and hunger, in this circumstance, it offers little on its own.
She said despite major strides, hunger and poverty have stayed even in times of plenty, adding that economic growth, especially growth in agriculture, had been essential to driving down rates of hunger and poverty.
She added that a long-term social protection policy would, by 2025, build an inclusive, integrated and comprehensive social system.
In reading a statement on behalf of the First Lady of The Gambia, the Executive Director of ‘Operation Save’ the Children, Mrs Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie,said the gathering was meant to commemorate two very important events, the World Food Day and the United Nations International Day of rural women.
She said the themes are also in congruence with the policy objectives and programmes of the Gambia government.
According to her, evidence had shown that investment in sound social protection programmes, as well as in women yields prosperity and sustainable livelihoods, especially to improving the lives of families.
Mrs Jobe-Njie said this year’s World Food Day focuses on social protection because supporting social protection schemesprevents people from hunger in the short-term.
The Gambia government recognises that social protection does more than alleviate hunger and poverty, she said.
Social protection boosts family income and food security, helps children stay in school, slows the spread of HIV/Aids, and narrows the poverty gap.
She added that the celebration of these days should help them to reflect on theachievements so far registered in the struggle for food self-sufficiency and empowerment of the rural womenfolk.
According to her, a lot had been done towards The Gambia realising the aims of feedings all its citizens and ensuring that the hardworking and productive rural women are further empowered, to make them realise their full potentials in national development.
Francis Abanji from the World Food Programme(WFP), said the purpose of thetheme is to highlight the focus of action needed to resolve issues of food security and poverty in the rural areas, in order to protect the most vulnerable people.
Also speaking at the celebration was the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Falalo Touray, who said the day helps to highlight the importance of social protection in reducing rural poverty, and granting access to food or the means to buy food.
The Upper River Region (URR) deputy governor, Cherno Barra Touray, said the event had extra significance and is worth celebrating, as it also coincided with rural women’s day commemoration in Basse.
He said Rural Women’s Day is observed on 15 October to recognise the role of women in food production and food security.