May 24, 2010, 1:34 PM
The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) yesterday harvested its twenty-one hectares rice field located at the Yundum Barracks.
According to officials, the nerica rice seeds and fertilizer were donated to GAF by the embassy of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
In his welcoming remarks on the occasion, Lieutenant Colonel Yorro Jallow, camp commander at the defence headquarters, told the gathering that it was in July this year that the Taiwanese ambassador Richard Shih donated to them the inputs used on the farm.
"The gesture is a true manifestation of the cordial ties between the ROC embassy and GAF," he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jallow stated that the gesture was in response to President Jammeh's back-to-the-land clarion call. He said that with the support from the ROC, GAF would never be left behind in contributing to the food self-sufficiency drive of the country.
He thanked the men of GAF for working hard on the rice farm. "As soldiers their mandate is not only limited to preserving the total integrity of the state but also to engage in social activities such as agriculture," he noted.
Speaking on behalf of the Taiwanese ambassador, deputy ambassador Herman T.C Chiu said he was delighted at witnessing the occasion, describing it as a "positive process".
"It is a process whose role between the military and the civilian we can see is renewed," he remarked, while thanking the army for their tireless effort in contributing to nation-building.
In his keynote address, the Chief of Defence Staff, Masanneh Kinteh, said he was grateful to the Taiwanese embassy "for making this significant initiative happen".
"As you can see we are gathered here today with joy to harvest the rice field," the army chief said. He said it is a constitutional right for members of the army to engage in social activities like the cultivation and harvesting of rice fields.
"The effort of GAF in providing what we eat is not only complementing the president's efforts but also solving some of the needs of the Armed Forces," CDS Kinteh said.
He called on members of the army to think of good programmes to embark on to contribute more to national development.
According to him, the president's back-to-the-land call ?is not to farm for him, but to give survival tool" to the Gambian people.
CDS Kinteh said farming and other social ventures by the army would also bridge the gap between them and the civilians.
"If you want to know the Gambian character come to the army," he said, adding that GAF would not be isolated from the broader community. He applauded the Taiwanese agricultural project facilitators for their partnership in ensuring the army engage in socio-economic development initiatives.
Speaking earlier, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Harry Sambou, praised the Taiwanese embassy for the "brotherly role" shown to GAF, adding that through the same helping hand some members of the army have left for studies in Taiwan. The Taiwanese embassy recently donated four patrol boats to GAF, he noted.
He also said that climate change has also brought a lot of problems to society, which has gravely affected rice producing areas. "Therefore we cannot depend only on imported rice," he said.
He challenged the army stating that much is expected from them. "Your uniform is your passport, as you represent an honourable institution; you cannot use it for your personal uses," he said.