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VP opens 4th regional seminar on food security

Feb 3, 2012, 2:33 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

Vice President Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy on Wednesday presided over the opening ceremony of sub-regional seminar on food security through commercialization of Agriculture, at the Ocean Bay Hotel.

The three-day meeting marked the 4th Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture (FSCA) sub-regional programme meeting.

FSCA project in The Gambia is among seven national projects funded in West Africa by the Italian Government through its special contribution to the Global Trust Fund for food security and food safety.

The projects are implemented through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Mali, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone.

The project aims at promoting food security and supporting specific policies to introduce sustainable production, processing and marketing for farmers.

In her opening speech, the vice-president said the meeting was timely and relevant as the workshop was taking place at a time the Gambia Government has just launched the country Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), the successor programme to PRSPII, which seeks to enhance further the productive base of the economy through maximizing its growth potentials.

“The Government of The Gambia has been committed to reducing poverty and improving the well-being of its population since designing its first development strategy in 1994. This commitment is driven by the government’s long-term strategy - Vision 2020,” VP Njie-Saidy said.

Agriculture is the backbone of the Gambian economy, she also said, adding that it contributes about 24 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“The Vision 2020 Gambia Incorporated, the national Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment and the sector policy and programme, all spell out clearly our determination and commitment as a nation and government to agriculture as the main pillar for this country’s future and its development,” the vice president said.

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is the first Millennium Development Goal and none of the other MDGs can be met without food security and economic development, she says, adding: “As nations in the sub-region we cannot afford to rely on the outside markets to feed our peoples.”

According to her, the project is both timely and relevant to the efforts of the nation’s food security policy objectives and strategies being pursued vigorously by the Gambia Government.

In his welcome remarks, Dr Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Representative to The Gambia, said: “We have assembled here today to start deliberating for the next few days on the FSCA programme, retrospecting on past activities and introspecting on the way forward with regard to the way and manner of achieving the objectives of the programme.”

According to Dr Ahmadu, the FSCA Programme is intended to improve marketing and market access for local products, through increased value addition, conservation of agricultural products, processing improved packaging and beneficiary capacity building.

“In The Gambia, the activities of this programme have been carried out to the point where the products they have so far produced in this country are beginning to unravel hard evidence of the power of markets to food security and growth in the Agriculture sector,” he said.

Dr Babagana asserted that participants in the project and those associated with its implementation are not only excited at the results of the projects so far, particularly the undisputable commitment and hard work of the recipient and beneficiaries, but also look forward to its expansion countrywide.

Other speakers on the occasion included Giuliano Soncini, Inter- country Coordinator, and Musa Saihou Mbenga, FAO sub-regional coordinator for West Africa.

The occasion was chaired by the Minister of Forestry and the Environment, Jatto Sillah.

Meanwhile, the vice president, alongside of the workshop, also launched the FAO Gambia newsletter and brochure.