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The FAO Farmer Boost

Jul 9, 2009, 5:17 AM

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently made a whopping boost of farming implements and inputs to the Ministry of Agriculture for distribution to farmers in the Western, North Bank and Lower River Regions of The Gambia. The largesse included 4000 bags of fertilizers, 600 bags of NERICA rice and five power tillers. All of these added up to over four million dalasis.

The goal is to support the fight against poverty and household food insecurity throughout the world by distributing seeds, fertilizers and animal feed and farming tools and supplies to smallholder farmers. The project (Initiative on Soaring Food Prices) was launched in 2007 in response to the crises, especially the food crisis that "threatened to push millions of people back into the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty". These millions are mainly farmers who spend a substantial part of their incomes on the food they eat. For these millions of vulnerable people around the world, "high food prices have become a matter of survival".

This therefore explains the relevance of the 'initiative on soaring food prices'. For Africans, the initiative has taken on an added value in the wake of the African Union's reaffirmation of its commitment to investment in agriculture for economic growth and food security. At the just concluded summit of African heads of state in Sirte, Libya, African leaders roused themselves to commit themselves more and more to investing in agriculture as the surest and safest path for the progress of the continent.

Evidently, the FAO is working closely with African governments to reduce or even eliminate poverty and household food insecurity on the continent. That is why the initiative has to be given all the support it deserves by all stakeholders. To begin with, the beneficiaries of the FAO boost have to be made to be accountable for the support by way of efficient utilization of the implements, tools and other inputs. Secondly, the agricultural extension officers of the Ministry of Agriculture should always be on hand to guide and guard the farmers during the farming season so that the resources are efficiently used for the ends that are meant.

Importantly, in addition to the overall objective of increasing food production in the short term, the 'initiative of soaring food prices' should see to it that there are mechanisms for food preservation all over the place. A lot of food goes waste due to lack of appropriate preservation facilities. The result is that farmers do not have enough food to tide them over from one farming season to the other. And farmers also tend to sell their produce at give-away prices in order to avoid waste. Though they suffer some loss of income by so doing, the alternative is even worse.

At the risk of monotony, we would like to reiterate that agriculture is the bedrock of a society. When people are hungry, they are prone to all sorts of social vices. And when school children are hungry, they lose concentration. In short, hunger breeds sickness which in turn leads to low productivity. By contrast, a well-fed citizenry is fit, able and productive and poised to contribute more meaningfully to national development.

"Hunger is the best sauce in the world"

Cervantes, Miguel de