Saturday, March 24, 2012

PIWAMP Holds Successful Annual Consultative Meeting

The Project Management Unit of the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project called PIWAMP, from 16 to 17 March, 2012 held its 2011 annual consultative meeting at the Rural Agricultural Farmers Training Centre at Jenoi in Lower River Region. 
The meeting brought together the management and staff of PIWAMP, Coordinators of Project Units, representatives from the Ministry of  Agriculture, Global Youth  Innovation Network- GYIN-Gambia, Upland and Lowland Field Coordinators, among others.
The 2011 annual consultative meeting- an important learning exercise- brought together project staff, service providers and project beneficiaries to discuss  and agree on causes of  action for project  activities that have been implemented, said Alagie Jatta representing Deputy Governor of LRR at the official opening ceremony.

He went on to state that the consultative forum also afford all the stakeholders the opportunity to discuss openly critical issues affecting project implementation and to come to terms on the way forward. 
He then urged all the participants to devote their time and discuss on pertinent  issues with regards to the projects that have been implemented and the ongoing projects as well as upcoming designed projects. 
Mr. Jatta also called on  PIWAMP to be organising such regular meeting saying such meeting addresses issues with regards to projects  and participants could put up recommendations to be implemented by PIWAMP.
The government of The Gambia under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, has since 1994 created conducive environment for Gambian farmers, according to him. He then welcomed all participants to the meeting. 
In his official opening speech, Deputy Permanent Secretary,  Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Asheme Cole, expressed  profound gratitude to  PIWAMP management and it’s staff for what he described as the successful hosting of the 2011 annual consultative meeting. He also hailed the efforts of Mr. Momodou L. Gassama, the PIWAMP Project Coordinator and all the participants for accepting PIWAMP’s invitation to attend the meeting. 
Cole told the meeting that the government of The Gambia is looking for seeds for farmers as it is on government’s top agenda due to the crop failure in 2010-2011 crop season. He told the meeting that the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Solomon Owens since his appointment has came with slogans  as gears towards boosting the agricultural sector in the country.
“This 2011 annual consultative meeting is very important because ideas, and experiences will be shared among the participants,” he pointed out,urging the farmer participants to fully take part in the two days  meeting. He reminded them that the meeting was an opportunity for the farmers to voice out their challenges and put forward recommendations to PIWAMP for implementation. Cole termed the meeting a “bottom to top approach”, stressing that if the beneficiaries do not speak their minds, then the the beneficiaries have failed.
“This forum is an open forum, therefore, you need to participate actively and if you don’t speak now tomorrow if anything happen in the project you should not put your blame on PIWAMP but yourselves,” he pointedly told them. 
Project overview was done by Mr. Momodou L. Gassama, PIWAMP Project Coordinator, who vouched that  the project implementation in  2011, despite severe constraints, had been very successful especially in the Watershed Development and Capacity Building component. Gassama told the meeting that the 2011 annual consultative meeting is to critically reflect over the 2011 activities and come up with sound recommendations to ensure improved delivery in the coming years. 
That PIWAMP is managed by small unit headed by a project coordinator, two field coordinators, one managing lowland development activities and construction (dykes, spillways, causeways and bridges) and two upland activities personnels. The lowland Agricultural Development project (LADEP 1997-2005)  focused mainly on the development of the lowland ecologies as a strategy to increase rice production and thereby achieve food security in the country, said Gassama.
As implementation of the LADEP activities  progressed,  it became increasingly clearly to all stakeholders that increased food security could only be achieved through an integrated land development approach, Gassama told the meeting.
He also went on to  say that major players on the ground, realised the need to adopt a holistic approach in addressing the land degradation issues affecting agricultural production in The Gambia.
According to him, the realisation that all the ecologies in the landscape are interlinked and cannot be targeted separately has led to the adoption of the  concept of Integrated Watershed Management in The Gambia.  
It was then agreed by experts in the agriculture and natural resources sector that a new follow-up project must be formulated to address all the environmental issues leading to low agricultural production and poor natural resource management, thus the PIWAMP was born. 
“The government of The Gambia in fulfilling its obligations to enable poor rural people to overcome poverty and achieve household food security and developed strategies within this project to ensure these goals are obtained through a sustainable use of our land resource,” the meeting heard from Gassama.
He went on:“As a result, a participatory approach that ensured beneficiaries  contribution of unskilled labour during land development while the project takes responsibility for all other costs, was applied for PIWAMP.”  
He also said the Project Management Unit (PMU) comprises a financial controller, community mobilization officer, and monitoring and evaluation officer, saying that the team is aided by other support staff, field supervisors, principal officers and conservation field assistants (CFA).
The  PMU, according to Gassama, is also supervised by a Project Steering Committee (PSC) composed of permanent secretaries  of ministries of agriculture and finance, and key institutions in the  ANR  sector, adding that the PSC approves the project implementation plan, annual work plans and budgets and also provides overall policy guidance
For the execution of the project activities and acquisition of monitoring and evaluation system information, he stated that the PMU signs annual agreements with eight implementing agencies called service providers. That  the service providers, in collaboration with project beneficiaries, would implement activities through a participatory approach.
Gassama seized the opportunity to introduce to the 2011 annual consultative meeting  the incremental Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP) component of  PIWAMP that has resulted to the appointment of a national SLM Coordinator assisted by two Field coordinators responsible for the coordination of all SLM activities in collaboration with the Agricultural Regional Directorates. 
The PIWAMP Project Coordinator informed them that one of the key objectives of this SLM component is to establish the national and regional SLM secretariats that will harmonise and coordinate all land management issues  for the first time in The Gambia.
The 2011 annual consultative meeting also witnessed presentations by Soil and Water Management Services (SWMS) through Mr. Ebrima Jobe, Agricultural Officer, Monitoring and Evaluation SWMS; Mr. Aruna Jobe, Programme Officer Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Environment Agency (NEA), who presented a paper on NEA/PIWAMP partnership in Sustainable Development; and Mr.Seedy Dampha Planner at the Planning Service Unit (PSU) presented a paper on PIWAMP Draft Crop Data Report.

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