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Food self-sufficiency forms formidable challenge in 2016, says President Jammeh

Jan 4, 2016, 10:58 AM

President Yahya Jammeh has said that the most formidable challenge for his government in the year 2016 is the attainment of national food self-sufficiency.

The President made this statement while delivering his New Year Message on 31 December 2015, adding that attainment of food self-sufficiency would serve as a foundation for the country to graduate into a net exporter of food by 2018.

“The year 2015 has been associated with remarkable and significant milestones” in his government’s quest to transform The Gambia into a highly-developed country, Jammeh said.

The president’s New Year message also urged Gambians to live as one people, and called on “both Muslims and Christians to continue living together peacefully and to work in harmony for the common good of the country, regardless of our ethnolinguistic differences”.

Following is the full text of the President’s New Year Message:

A’Udhu Billahi Minas Shaytanir Rajeem

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Asalaamu Alaikum Warahmatullah

Fellow Gambians and friends of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia

I thank the Almighty Allah for giving me the opportunity once more to witness yet the dawn of another New Year. May the Almighty Allah welcome us to 2016 with His continued blessing and benevolence, and provide us with the strength, good health, wisdom, perseverance and faith for us to be able to consistently contribute positively to the development of our beloved Nation - the Islamic Republic of The Gambia.

I also wish to take this opportunity to reiterate my sincere appreciation to all Gambians, friends of the Gambia and well wishers for their love, support, prayers and encouragement during the year 2015.

Fellow Gambians,

Thanks to Allah (SWT), the year 2015 has been associated with remarkable and significant milestones in our quest to transform The Gambia into a highly developed country, God willing. Our performance in the implementation of the 2015 MDGs has been impressive. We have made significant progress in reducing poverty; some education related targets have been surpassed, some health-related targets met; and we are on track and have registered appreciable inroads towards the attainment of the rest of other targets.

The highest points of this cluster of achievements have been the reduction of hunger and mal-nutrition from 13.3% in 1992 to less than 5% in 2015 and the availability of clean potable water to over 80% of the population. These levels of performance warranted the receipt of prestigious awards of excellence from the FAO and the AU respectively.

Our efforts in the maintenance of peace and security both nationally and in the sub-region and beyond have also again been lauded with a golden star award by the African Security Watch. Similarly our Pan-African perspective which upholds the primacy of respect and dignity of the African and reliance on our own human and material resources for the development of the continent has as usual been commended by progressive forces that subscribe to the conviction that Africa’s development and destiny rest in the Hands of the Almighty Allah in particular and the Africans in General, both in the continent and the diaspora.

Fellow Gambians,

Our success in the implementation of the MDG’s within the context of our National Visions has fortified our resolve to transform the Post-2015 challenges into opportunities for further improvement in the welfare of our people. My government has participated meaningfully in the formulation of the Post – 2015 Development Agenda and we have made sure that the entire nation has been sensitized on the substance of the sustainable development goals and African Agenda 2063. These programmes will be indigenised in the successor to the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) that is currently under formulation. Already, government, in collaboration with the UNDP and other partners have commenced consultations on the prioritizing and mainstreaming of the sustainable development goals as well as exploring innovative private sector financing and making the investment environment more attractive to enhance the availability of funds for their implementation.

Fellow Gambians,

The most formidable yet surmountable challenge of the year 2016 is the attainment of national food-self sufficiency as a foundation for graduating into a net exporter of food by 2018. With the attainment of the objectives of Vision 2016, hunger, mal-nutrition and poverty will be eradicated in The Gambia sooner than expected. What we should focus on now is to redouble our efforts and implement more effective and efficient food production and processing strategies. My government is firmly committed to provide the conducive environment to the farming community. I therefore call on all to work together with a sense of common purpose for the achievement of this target.

Meanwhile however, we will continue with our reform agenda to ensure that the macro-economic situation of the country is improved to facilitate increase in revenues, buttressed by rational public expenditure, stable interest and exchange rates and low inflation. We have however had the unpleasant but necessary task of intervening in the foreign exchange market to correct, in the immediate term, certain distortions and market failures that resulted in the continuous dwindling of the value of the dalasi against foreign currencies. This intervention is meant to promote and protect the interest of the citizenry of this country; and it is not in any way different in principle from similar measures taken in the developed countries to manage their financial and economic crises.

However, contrary to what others believe, my government subscribes to the principles and spirit of the free market system and will continue to promote and encourage honest private sector participation and contribution in all sectors of the Gambian economy. This is in fulfillment of our responsibility but we also expect all actors in the economy to participate honestly, responsibly and meaningfully for the benefit of all of us.

Fellow Gambians,

My Government will continue to pursue the country’s national interests both internally and externally based on our national interests in conformity with our religious values and on the basis of mutual respect with friendly countries and partners. Therefore, The Gambia’s Foreign Policy will continue to advocate for respect for the sovereignty of nations, irrespective of their economic, wealth or geographical status. We will also continue to work for the return of peace, tranquility and development to countries of the world affected by violence, terrorism and conflicts.

Let me also reassure those who advocate and sponsor violence in whatever forms that they will fail sooner rather than later because their actions and plans are against the will of the Almighty Allah-the Greatest Planner, who has power over all things.

Fellow Gambians,

Recently, I pronounced The Gambia as an Islamic State and Republic on the basis that the majority of Gambians are Muslims and the need to uphold the country’s Islamic identity and faith in an environment of true Islam where the rights of all citizens would be safeguarded and respected. In this respect, I call on both Muslims and Christians to continue living together peacefully and work in harmony for the common good of the country regardless of our ethnolinguistic differences.

As Muslims and Christians, we should eradicate tribalism in The Gambia because it is shunned by Allah (SWT) and all His Prophets and (Messengers). The Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an that He will change a nation for the better only if the people (the nation) change what is within themselves for the better. SO, clearly, fellow Gambians, and humanity at large, let us cleanse our hearts and wish others the good we wish for ourselves. Let us live as one strong and united family and be each other’s keeper; be devout Muslims and patriotic citizens as well.

As we welcome the New Year 2016, I wish you all the best and may the Almighty Allah cleans our hearts of evil intentions and join us together for our common good. May He put faith, tawheed and iman in our hearts for us to believe in Him alone and worship Him alone. If all of us live by these Godly virtues, The Islamic Republic of The Gambia would be transformed beyond anyone’s imagination in terms of human development and economic prosperity for all of us, in sha Allah

Long live the Islamic Republic of The Gambia.

The Almighty Allah is The Greatest.

I thank you all for your attention.