Aug 28, 2008, 5:39 AM
Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), with the support of The
Gambia Commercialization and Agriculture Value Chains project (GCAV) and NEMA,
yesterday held an international agriculture investment forum to promote
agriculture locally and internationally, at the Senegambia Beach Hotel in
The two-day intensive forum is geared towards promoting agriculture and remedying the challenges that farmers encounter and also to create market-oriented agricultural production within the farming community.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Omar J Jallow, said innovative investment is crucial for agricultural transformation, wealth creation and long-term prosperity in Africa.
He said The Gambia’s agricultural sector is operating in a new paradigm for some years now leading to the sustainable growth and long term profitability required for development.
“In the new Gambia, we are indeed challenged to raise the bar and deliver the much needed growth that will be a catalyst to transforming the livelihoods of all of us, but particularly poor rural folks,” he opined.
Hon. OJ Jallow further remarked that in order to sustain the recent economic performance in the country, a number of key innovative actions are needed, including the encouragement of a private-sector-led agricultural export initiative as well as diversification and the promotion of market-oriented agricultural production.
He stated that it is imperative that the forum provides a framework to address and approach the challenges in agricultural investment in a rational way.
He affirmed the government’s commitment to encourage partnership in the new Gambia, adding that they are a result-oriented government and that the forum is a clear manifestation of their unified objective to increase the opportunities that will transform agriculture into a viable commercial venture.
For her part, Minister of Trade, Dr Isatou Touray, said agriculture is a core sector of The Gambia’s economy. Its contribution to GDP stands at 32% and the sector engages over 70% of the active workforce. She said that this justifies the importance the Government of The Gambia attaches to the agriculture sector.
She said the government’s strategic objective is to transform the national economy from a net-importing economy to a net-exporter whilst ensuring food self-sufficiency and affordable food prices.
She emphasised that this far-reaching objective cannot be achieved in the absence of the much-required investments in technology, trade and quality infrastructure, post-harvest management, partnership building, and access to markets for integration into the global value chain.
“This forms the cornerstone of this international agriculture investment forum and I urge you to maximize the benefits it presents within an enabling policy and business environment that The Gambia will continue to ensure,” she said.
Dr Touray went on to state, “I expect rich deliberations over the two-day forum that will not only provide opportunities but highlight challenges and constraints in the policy and business environment.”
She disclosed that her ministry will continue to facilitate and support partnerships for synergy and the pursuit of enhanced trade development, stating that they shall work hand in glove with all sectors of the economy to address trade-related challenges and spur wider investment and growth in our national economy.
She urged the participants to adopt an all-inclusive approach to addressing the national priorities, “let us build partnerships across all levels in and between government, regional administrations, the private sector, civil society, communities, academia and industry.”
“I expect this to be extended to a dialogue on access to land for agricultural investment as it is crucial for harnessing our efforts, resources and competences into a common pool,” she concluded.