Nov 14, 2008, 6:04 AM
The forum brought together various stakeholders, and was aimed at looking at the document critically, and to come up with a concrete recommendation for a working tool for the Ministry of Agriculture.
FAO support to the country’s agricultural sector through the TCP project is to establish a national horticultural sector development plan that results in improved livelihood and food security of the people of The Gambia.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the FAO deputy representative, Mariatou Faal Njie, said the NHSMP is consistent with the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan 2011-2015, which is aligned fully with the national goals of Vision 2020, and aims to improve the commercialization of the sector while at the same time increasing national food, nutrition, income security and reducing poverty.
Ms Njie said the development of this document was in line with the FAO-Gambia country programme framework CPF, one of whose pillars focuses on improved food and nutrition security at the household and community levels.
He added that developing the horticulture master plan would enable the government to catalyze horticultural sector development that results in improved livelihood and food security of the people of The Gambia.
According to her, horticulture is an important sub-sector that could exploit the potential of the country, particularly the underutilized arable land and River Gambia.
“This sub sector has been identified as one of the priority sectors in the agriculture and natural resources policy, country programme framework of the FAO, as well as the national export strategy 2013, and offers important opportunities for the diversification of the agricultural sector,” Ms Njie added.
It also has the potential to become an import source of foreign exchange earnings for The Gambia, she further stated.
The horticulture sector makes an important contribution to farm incomes, food security, nutrition improvement and economic growth and is given a high priority by the Gambian government in its export oriented and diversification policy, she continued.
According to her, the horticultural sector is considered to have a great growth potential, but has been hampered for decades by low productivity.
She added that statistical data of the sector has been lacking, and there are very few functional and specialized support institutions for horticulture.
The sector contributes to 4 percent of the GDP with 65 percent of farmers engaged in some aspects of horticulture production, she went on.
The recent growth in horticultural exports from 965 metric tonnes in 2000 to 1735 metric tonnes in 2006 indicates the vast potential for horticultural development in The Gambia, she said.
She also stated that the horticultural development potential of The Gambia is bolstered by notable strengths, including suitable soils and diverse climatic condition for cultivation of a wide range of horticultural crops, non-traditional export crop and commitment by the government to support agriculture.
According to her, the national horticultural sector master plan 2015-2035 is a demand-driven initiative of the horticulture stakeholders to exploit the fast growing demand and market opportunities available in the national, regional and international markets.
This master plan is envisaged to provide guidance for a more strategic approach for the development of the sector, she said.
The National Horticulture Sector Master Plan NHSMP was formulated through a participatory process involving key stakeholders of the agriculture sector at national, regional, district and local levels.
On the other hand, she went on, the farm management handbook is a useful tool providing comprehensive and up-to date information for farmers, extension workers, students and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
The output of agricultural produce could be considerably increased if the knowledge already accumulated in The Gambia is available to the farmer, according to Ms Njie.
It is evident that the information given in this handbook could not be blindly applied, but requires assessment for its relevance to specific situations, she challenged.
Ms Njie stressed that the primary value of this handbook lies in providing comparisons among alternative courses of action, and in developing a logical and systematic procedure to carry out a chosen course of action.
The development of these documents would play a pivotal role in the achievement of food security, which is a national priority and is in conformity with the Millennium Development Goals and the path to reaching the zero hunger target, she said.
She thanked the Gambia government through the Ministry of Agriculture for the strong relationship which FAO enjoys with its government partners, and reaffirm FAO’s commitment to deepening its collaboration and cooperation with the government.
The permanent secretary 2 at the Ministry of Agriculture, Sheriffo Bojang, presided over the opening of the two-day forum.