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Gambian rice farmers attend sub-regional forum

Feb 4, 2011, 12:30 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

An official of the National Coordinating Organisation of Farmers’ Associations in The Gambia (NACOFAG) recently led a delegation of Gambian rice farmers to join other West African rice farmers in establishing the West African Network of Rice Farmers

The event was held in the city of Bamako in Mali.

The Gambian delegation, led by the coordinator of NACOFAG, Alieu Sowe, included Peter Baldeh, a rice expert from the URR NERICA Rice Farmers Association, and Ms Mariama Ceesay of the Rice Co-operative Association of Central River Region.

The consultative forum was held to bring all national rice farmers’ associations in the sub-region together to establish the West African Regional Association under the auspices of ROPPA.

ROPPA is the West African Network of Farmers Organisations based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The initiative is being supported by ECOWAS and other non-governmental organizations.

The forum was attended by 113 delegates from 14 countries in West Africa, as well as representatives of donors and partners.

 According to the Gambian team leader, during the meeting they discussed ways and means of increasing agricultural productivity.

In his presentation at the forum in Mali, on behalf of the Gambia delegates, on the consultative General Assembly of rice farmers, Peter Baldeh, NACOFAG NERICA focal person, spoke on the potentials of the sector in the Gambian economy.

The sector generates approximately 40 per cent foreign exchange earnings and provides two thirds of total household income, he says.

According to Mr Baldeh, agriculture accounts for over 70 per cent of the total workforce in The Gambia.

Mr Baldeh added that the sector is contributing, on average, 25.30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and produces about 50 per cent of the national food supplies, with less than 50 per cent of the country’s total arable land resources currently being utilised.

Mr Baldeh further stressed that rice is now grown virtually in all categories of arable land in all regions of the country, with various development strategies employed to increase production and productivity.

Although it is the main staple food for most consumers, its production is grossly limited with only an average of 18.7 per cent of total cereal cultivated area devoted to paddy.

This was due to the introduction of new varieties of rice, including NERICA, in The Gambia and other institutional arrangements at regional level.

Mr Baldeh buttressed the fact that Nerica has been in high demand, since its introduction, and that this is manifested by the increase in the number of hectares cultivated yearly, from 2005.