May 15, 2013, 9:05 AM
The training activity was held to strengthen the women farmer leaders on food processing, so they too could train members of other farmer groups.
Held at Mansakonko on 25 and 26 January this year, it was attended by representatives from the department of Forestry and various farmer organizations across the country.
The president of the National Farmers’ Platform, Alhaji Basse Mboge, speaking at the opening ceremony, said the training activity was being rolled out to give women farmers appropriate skills in how to manage forest products, and to preserve and process them into food items that are good, attractive and saleable in the market.
He said the Farmers’ Platform has been tasked to coordinate andmanage FFF projects in The Gambia and Liberia.
“We are working in collaboration with the government,” he said, adding that the ANR is in charge of the project, but the Farmers’ Platform is implementing it through farmer-based organizations.
Through the FFF project, they have continued to sensitize farmers on how to protect the forest or guard against deforestation, he said.
“We also realize that we can make good use of the forest produce and products by training women farmers on how to process honey, baobab, the local dettah, and others into food items,’’ he said.
The ANR platform will also empower the women farmers through sensitization and advocacy in line with the President’s slogan of ‘grow what you eat, and eat what you grow’, so women farmers would utilise the forest products to attain the 2016 agenda, as farmers should not focus on only rice and vegetables.
In his remarks on the occasion, the LRR regional director of Forestry, Ebrima Sawaneh, said the FFF project is supporting and enlightening farmers and community foresters about the importance of forest products, and not only focusing on deforestation.
“The women farmers will gain knowledge on how processing forest products such as kaba and dettah will add value to their income,” he said, adding: “Food processing will bring development to this country, and will improve our health and help the farmers to market their products internationally.”
He also called on the private sector and other government departments to support the Forestry department to create more awareness in farmers on processing and producing forest products.
Farmers’ Platform technical adviser Sheriff Sanyang, in his remarks, said the Farmers’ Platform is bantaba for farmers to meet and discuss issues relating to farming.
“The Farmers’ Platform was set up 10 years ago,” he recalled, adding: “The FFF project under FAO is supporting farmers and community foresters on how to improve the livelihood of farmers.
“We are training you here for two days, for you to gain knowledge and ask questions for clarifications.”
He stated that the restructuring of the Farmers’ Platform was undertaken by the newly-elected board members, who conducted a national sensitization programme to update farmers about the platform and its work.
The Farmers’ Platform is fully funded and supported by ActionAid The Gambia, he added, and the platform is the umbrella body for various farmer organizations including rice farmer associations.
“Our new project will target and fully support women farmers,” he said.
Women Vegetable Fruit and Food Processing Centre Managing Director Bakoto Jobe Mboge, also speaking on the occasion said: “The National Farmers Platform and FFF project under FAO is supporting women processors and the LHDP, which set up Women Vegetable Food and Fruit Processing Centre.
“The multi-purpose processing centre, which is well-equipped with processing equipment, is training women on how to process forest products and other food items.”
She continued: “The multi-purpose centre is conducting training activities, and has employed about 20 girls who are working with us. We are specialised and have been trained on food processing since 2012, and we are still working on it. The Farmers’ Platform is giving us full support at the processing centre.”
“The Senegalese farmers normally to come to The Gambia to buy the baobab fruit to produce it into soft drinks. The Farmers’ Platform has now trained us on how to process the baobab juice, and we are now selling it at the market.
“We also preserve and prepare pepper and ‘Wonjo’ fruit into jam. If women farmers are empowered we will help the government and country to achieve the Vision 2016 agenda.”
Concluding, she said: “I have employed young women and girls, and those who have been divorced through early marriage, just to empower women.”