Oct 27, 2010, 6:38 PM
The Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Kekoi Kuyateh on behalf of his Deputy Minister yesterday presided over the official opening of The Gambia All VISACA Congress, at the Sheraton Hotel in Brufut.
Speaking at the occasion, the Agric DPS said the Rural Finance Project (RFP) is tasked to help create an exit strategy for supporting the development of VISACAs (village savings and credit association) in The Gambia.
According to him, one of the strategies includes supporting the establishment of national VISACA Apex body.
He said that the development and strengthening of rural financial systems is pivotal to the attainment of policy goals of achieving increase food security, diversifying agricultural productive base, providing gainful employment, and generating income for the rural populace.
He hailed the intervention of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in supporting the RFP, which he said, is relevant and appropriate for the socioeconomic development of the country. He added that the primary goal of Rural Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) includes the creation of an enabling environment for the development of rural micro-finance.
He stressed that the government has the notion that the poor are hardworking and "when provided with efficient services the poor can turn the sand into gold."
"The government of The Gambia recognised the important role of micro-finance institutions in changing the lives of the people," he stated.
For his part, Alhagie Basiru Njie 1st Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia stressed that his bank is unreservedly committed to the development of a robust, responsive and inclusive financial sector.
"More specifically, access to finance can be a powerful tool to fight poverty," he emphasised. But he lamented that even though some of the VISACAs in the country are doing well, majority of them are not living up to expectations, simply because of poor management. As he put it, they are saddled with mountain of bad and doubtful debt.
"For the sake of maintaining confidence in the microfinance sector only VISACAs that have demonstrated viability are worthy of our support. Those found to be irredeemably insolvent should unhesitatingly close and borrowing from the military maxim, it is bad policy to reinforce failure" he further lamented.
According to him, microfinance institutions are sustainable if they are designed properly with built-in risk strategies, tap on linkages with commercial banks and embrace technology.
He concluded by stressing the need for farmers to be given access to micro-finance to enable us move out of poverty in this country.
Other speakers include the acting Project Manager of Micro Finance, Mr. Sam Ali Ashcroft.