They committed at the opening ceremony of the FAO-Gambia Country Programming Framework (CPF) Annual Review and Planning Meeting in the face of rising food insecurity, alarming land degradation, biodiversity loss, declining fisheries and forest resources amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic and its induced impacts on income sources and livelihoods of rural and urban populations.
About 90 people participated in the three-day annual event organised with implementing partners to deliberate on the 2020 Programming Cycle Outcomes. They also discussed and defined Actions for 2021 and beyond.
About 1 in 3 was a virtual participant due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the gathering, Amie Fabureh, Minister for Agriculture, Lamin B. Dibba,Minister of The Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources and James F. Gomez, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, all acknowledged with appreciation the 'immense contributions' of FAO in the implementation of the CPF.
They highlighted at length FAO's technical and financial support to the Government towards the realisation of national development priorities.
The three ministers acknowledged the key successes registered in their respective sectors and praisedthe FAO for being "a true and dependable" longstanding partner for the Gambia.
Amie Fabureh, emphasised that the CPF addresses the priorities of the National Development Plan 2018 – 2021. During the period under review, her Ministry had devoted special attention to ensuring strong collaboration and result-oriented implementation.
She informed the gathering that in 2020, over 14,000 farmers benefited from input support, such as seeds and fertilisers. She added that other departments of agriculture also benefitted from capacity building and institutional strengthening.
Lamin B. Dibba praised FAO's efforts to consolidate the "Agriculture Policy" and the "Natural Resources Policy" into one single policy thatwould guide the entire Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) sector's development.
He noted that FAO contributed to policy strengthening and building human and institutional capacity for the forestry department. FAO also helped the Government build local capacities in the management of community forests, supported the establishment of community-based forest enterprises to support efforts geared towards addressing deforestation, land degradation, and poverty.
He urged participants to identify alternatives for fuelwood and timber to help curb communities’high dependency on the forest for livelihoods.
The wood charcoal business has devastating environmental consequences, such as land degradation and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, it is a business that exacerbates climate change impacts, food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty.
"Peoples livelihoods are dependent on the forest. I urge this meeting to explore alternatives to help reduce the high dependency on the forest to increase our carbon sink and achieve our objective under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change", Dibba said.
"The work that FAO is doing in the area of climate change aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change and variability on the agriculture and natural resources sector in the Gambia". Dibba also reiterated the importance of ensuring timely collection, analysis and dissemination of information on the ANR sector to farmers to attain government priorities.
James F. Gomez stated that FAO's support to the Fisheries Sector is in line with the National Development Plan's fisheries objectives, such as strengthening the fisher folks'capacities, particularly women who constitute 80% of the post-harvest operators.
"Our partnership in sustainable development, management, conservation and protection of the fishery has enabled the sector to be responsive, sustainable and efficient in attaining its desired goal," he added.
"FAO Fisheries Technical Cooperation (TCP) project intervention has contributed tremendously to the development of communities' capital assets and have created an environment of trust and partnership among community groups in several aspects, including decision-making processes. On behalf of the Government, the people of the Republic of The Gambia and my own, I want to express sincere appreciation and gratitude to our development partner FAO for providing the necessary support for the strive towards the achievement of fisheries' objectives of the National Development Plan".
MoshibudiRampedi, FAOR, explained that the Government, NGOs, farmers and Civil Society Organizations have all served as valuable Implementing Partners supporting FAO to achieve its goals and objectives.
"In 2020, about GMD469.2 million (USD 9.2 million) was spent implementing the CPF. Working with Implementing Partners, FAO helped build government institutions and farmers' capacities and supported the formulation of policies and strategies, including the National Early Warning Strategy, she noted.
Rampedi also highlighted that in 2020, FAO made considerable investments in agriculture and natural resources development, production input support and enhanced access to mechanisation, the construction of processing centres for fisheries and livestock production targeting farmers. The main donors for these interventions include the European Union, Global Environment Facility and FAO TCPs, always witha special focus on empowering women and youths.
She, however, reminded the meeting of new challenges that need immediate intervention. These include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on household food security and nutrition, the need to strengthen institutional and national capacities amidst the Avian Bird Flu threat, and the low commercialisation levels in the Agriculture Natural Resources Sector.
‘More than ever FAO needs the continued support from the UN Country Team, our Implementing Partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries’ she emphasised. FAO thanked the Government of The Gambia for leadership, positive relations and sharing the United Nations' commitment to Deliver as One and Build Back Better.