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Food security lies with smallholder farmers -says farmer's advocacy group

Oct 20, 2010, 1:10 PM

Strengthening smallholder farmers may be the only way to achieving food security in The Gambia and Africa, a farmer's advocacy group has said.

According to the Gambia National Farmers' platform, programmes for agricultural development would have to embrace the needs of smallholder farmers as a way of attaining food security for the nation.

The organization's national coordinator, Ms Marie Adams, said food security is a challenge for most countries in Africa, including The Gambia. To achieve food security, there is need for close collaboration among stakeholders, she said.

Speaking on the theme for this year's World Food Day, "United against Hunger", Ms Adams said that to fight hunger and eliminate food insecurity, there is need for government to work with the private sector, farmers and civil society organizations.

She added that farmer organizations should come together and re-organize and make governance issues central to their operations.  She also underscored the need to recognize the strength in one voice and to create improved policy for themselves.

She said access to land, particularly for women, is not a challenge for The Gambia, as "statistics put women farmers at 60 per cent" of the farming population. "What is needed is the review of land policy to enhance maximized participation of women farmers in agriculture," she said.

Ms Adams adduced that farmers should make use of various micro-finance credit facilities across the country, as their number determines their power of resource mobilization. "Civil society participation in comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme implementation would bring positive results for improved food security programme," she said.

As part of the challenge of Gambian farmers, Ms Adams outlined limited marketing, insufficient storage facilities, limited extension services, and transportation as problems facing farmers in the country.

"There has been lot of talks on increasing production but marketing is a problem; fisheries operators don't have sufficient storage facilities for their fishes, the same for horticultural, fruit farmers, among others," she said, adding: "Hinterland farmers face transportation difficulties in trying to bring their produce to market centres. Their problems are numerous for government to handle alone, hence the need to unite against hunger by all stakeholders."