Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gambia launches Italian-funded food security project

NEWS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA(MB)-Hon. Momodou Seedy Kah, The Gambia’s deputy minister of agriculture yesterday launched the US$2,094,000 Italian government funded “Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture” in The Gambia project. The two-day launching of the project, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Kololi.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Mr. Kah noted that the project could not come at a better time than now when the government stands resolute in the fight against endemic poverty, food and income insecurity and socioeconomic exclusion and injustice particularly among the vulnerable groups. These, he said, are to be tackled through the utilization of the relentless efforts of the citizenry in the realization of Vision 2020, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP II), the Millennium Development Goals and the CAADP Partnership Compact of the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Programme (GNAIP).

The minister said the FSCA project which is meant to complement government’s efforts in this direction would work with a number of relevant government, non government and farmers’ institutions for greater achievements of stated objectives through the creation of potential synergies and linkages with various institutions and farmers’ organizations in order to avoid duplication of efforts and wastage of the limited financial resources. The project’s primary beneficiaries would be women and youth.

According to him, the project would also be channeled through the FAO-Gambia office during its 3-year lifespan. He said the overall objective of the three-year multinational agricultural development project is to provide support to the development of African agriculture into a more modern, competitive and commercially dynamic sector, while building on the achievements and lessons learned from the National Programmes for Food Security.

In The Gambia, the project, he said, will seek to ensure agricultural productivity, marked output and incomes of project beneficiary farmer-based organizations and small scale agro-processors increased on a sustainable basis, resulting in improved livelihoods and food security. He said it will also address issues related to access to regional and international markets, food quality and safety, cross-border trade and harmonization of policies and institution to support competitiveness and modernization while it will also target small-holders especially women farmers and processors in existing farmer-based organizations who are engaged in production, processing and/or marketing of agricultural produce.

According to the deputy minister, the project has three components which are to strengthen farmer support services and farmer groups to equip them with relevant capacity building skills, to give support to value addition and marketing, which he said will build the skills of farmers and agro-processors in market oriented production value addition methods, business development and management and input-output linkages and project coordination, monitoring and evaluation.

Hon. Kah further noted that the project management should necessarily be in close collaboration with the implementing institutions, beneficiaries and that non-governmental institutions will thrive to take bold strides in the effective and efficient implementation of the project to ensure the realization of stated objectives within the indicated time frame and also to jealously safeguard against financial irregularities at all levels to enhance transparency, financial prudence and probity.

Also speaking, Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Resident Representative said in discussions about poverty, agriculture is often overlooked, adding, despite its central role as the economic and social backbone of most poor countries and the fact that over 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural area. He said FAO raises awareness amongst donors and other key decision-makers on issues related to agriculture, food and nutrition.

“Although the world produces enough to feed its entire over 6 billion people, one in eight of our fellow humans do not get enough to eat each day. While there has been a drop in the proportion of the global population that is chronically undernourished the actual number has changed little since the World Food Summit, and stands at round 850 million people. In spite of this, FAO remains convinced that, with strong commitment and a sharper focus on direct actions that can have immediate impact, it is still possible to reach the MDG1 and World Food Summit targets of halving the proportion and number of undernourished between 1990 and 2015,” he added.

Also speaking, the FAO country representative, Dr. Babagana Ahmadu said FAO’s vision is a world without hunger in which most people are able, by themselves, to obtain the food they need for an active and healthy life, and where social safety nets ensure that those who lack resources still get enough to eat. This vision, he said which is already a reality in developed countries, now needs to be extended to all developing countries, starting with those where the problems of hunger and malnutrition are most widespread and severe. He also said that success in moving fast to cut the number of hungry and malnourished people will reduce human suffering, stimulate economic growth where it is most needed, and contribute to global stability, to everyone’s benefit.

“To make this vision a reality, development process combined with social safety nets must reach marginalized and food insecure people on a large scale, in the places where they live. Consequently, FAO started promoting national action programmes to achieve sustainable food security,” he said.

According to him, the programme focuses on food security through commercialization of agriculture in 7 countries in West Africa – The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone which gives an opportunity to approach the aforementioned major issues in-depth.

The exchange of experience, the lessons learned, the constraints encountered the suggested solutions and the strategies for a better delivery and impact, he noted, will help valorize the considerable support from the Italian government.

For his part, Mr. Madhy Bambam, lead technical officer, TCFS, FAO Rome said that governments such as Italy have been supporting these national programmes, through concrete field projects and programmes targeting the farming community, the poor and the vulnerable groups. The Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture Project is therefore at the heart of struggle of the governments in the sub region to meet the priority populations, he said.

For his part, Daniele Salvini, inter-country coordinator noted that the project is not a standalone project, but another attempt to improve the food security of another West African country.

Hon. Baboucarr H.M. Jallow, Minister of Trade and Employment also spoke at the occasion.

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