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Gov’t identifies horticulture as key priority development area

Mar 5, 2015, 9:27 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

A permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Sheriffo Bojang, has said the Gambia has identified horticulture as one of the priority areas for development.

PS Bojang was speaking as he presided over the opening of a two-day validation forum of the national horticulture sector master plan organised by FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said horticulture is an important source of income, as well as employment and is an entry point for improving food and nutrition security in the country, especially in rural areas and among women farmers.

He added that horticulture is a dynamic sub-sector of agriculture, which attracts attention from government, development agencies and private sector investors.

“Horticulture is very important in the socio-economic development of the country and constitutes approximately 4 per cent of GDP and it is perhaps the key source of rural income for the womenfolk,” Mr Bojang noted.

He stated that the National Horticulture Sector Master Plan would also inform the National Medium Term programme framework of the FAO Gambia, as well as the donor portfolio of major development partners in the horticultural sector.

Therefore, he said, the master plan would be a giant step toward the attainment of the objectives of the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Programme (GNAIP), and the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE).

According to him, another important part of the validation exercise is the farm management handbook, a document which provides technical guidance to the farming community, the extension specialists and agricultural advisers.

The content of the document if properly followed and utilised would obviously improve the production and productivity of the farming community, PS Bojang said.

He indicated that GNAIP and PAGE are the medium-term strategic plans of the government toward achieving the vision for the agricultural and natural resources (ANR) sector, as well as food and nutritional security in the country.

Therefore, he added, stakeholders and collaborating partners in the field of agriculture and natural resources are urged to take holistic value chain approach focusing on women and youth farmers on the production side, and fostering sustainable linkages with existing national, regional and international markets for traditional horticultural products, as well as less exploited segments such as floriculture or high value fruits.

According to the PS, at the end of the project, MOA/DOA would have prepared a dynamic National Horticultural Sector Master Plan (NHSMP) with wide stakeholder participation, support and inputs.

The NHSMP would have the support of development partners and begin to establish better conditions for investment by the public and private sectors, he said.

According to him, the project would have supported the establishment of a centralised information system and efficient communication system among key stakeholders, ensuring a greater participation within the horticulture sector.

He also stated that the farm management handbook has eight thematic areas namely, vegetable production, grains, legumes and oil seeds, cereals production, soil fertility, pest management, post-harvest handling processing, and preservation and marketing.