President Jammeh’s recent nation wide tour of The Gambia is officially dubbed “agricultural tour” though most people in the country know it is nothing other than his usual political tour meant to control the possible damage inflicted by the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) recently concluded and widely applauded nation-wide tour.
The choice of going “agricultural” surprises no one. Mr. Jammeh loves pretending to be interested in and committed to agriculture but his policies and deeds show little of this. In fact perhaps it is even wrong to call them policies. The government of The Gambia has been without any defined plan of action, with defined goals with a set of logically interconnected activities for their achievement since the Medium Term plan of 2004. That plan was neither fully implemented nor anywhere near being successful. The fact is that there is no sector in which Jammeh and his government performed worse than the agricultural sector. Under Jammeh’s rule farming as a way of life for most Gambian has been ruined, villages have been empty of youth, those who still go to work at the farms are without reliable access to farming inputs, subsistence loans, seeds and any extension services and when despite all these the farmers are able to reap their harvests, when groundnuts are concerned, the Jammeh regime, through reckless interference, deprive them of marketing opportunities.
Though he has been in custody of the portfolio of the ministry of Agriculture most of the time during the past eight years, Jammeh has been more concerned with his hundreds of private farms, all grabbed from communities and individuals, than meeting the challenges of the country’s agriculture. When he makes his high-sounding, lip serviced proclamations on matters agricultural, they are usually so ignorant and thoughtless that it can be easily be concluded that the man is not serious about the matter.
Currently Jammeh’s goal, according to him, is to make Gambia self-sufficient in rice, its staple food, by the end 2016. Over ten years of expert help from the Taiwanese Technical Mission has failed to bring it anywhere nearer even making even one region of the country self-reliant in rice. The goals a man sets for himself at times tells you how serious he is in meeting those goals
A government genuinely committed to fighting hunger, poverty and focused on improving all disadvantaged cannot be setting such unreasonable goals just for the thrills of it. Some unreasonable expectations acts are manifestations of irresponsibility and so looks Jammeh’s so-called Vision 2016. The challenges facing Gambian agriculture today are too cumbersome to be successfully tackled even for the next fifteen years, even if all were well and in place.
Meeting Vision 2016’s goal has to be placed in the context of a rapidly changing world of urbanization, growing inequities, human migration, globalization, changing dietary preferences, climate change, environmental degradation, a trend toward biofuels and rapidly increasing populations. These conditions are affecting local and global food security and putting pressure on productive capacities and ecosystems everywhere. Hence, there are unprecedented challenges ahead in providing food within a global trading system where there are other competing uses of agricultural and other natural resources.
Today agricultural questions are complex; their solutions often require multi-disciplinary approaches. Agricultural interventions, even if on a small local household farm level require the ideas and opinions even of participating children. This is more so if the project is on the national plane, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousand households.
No one planning any major set of major agricultural without first assessing the situation with a base-line study. The study informs 0n issues critical to formulating policy and provides information for decision makers confronting conflicting views on contentious issues.
Increasing agricultural productivity remains a priority for The Gambia as in all other neighboring countries given the very low yields in the region and widespread hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. However, the development and sustainability goals of reducing hunger, achieving food security, improving health and nutrition, and increasing environmental and social sustainability can only be achieved through reality-based comprehensive assessments not dream-like visions
Current low level of agricultural productivity in The Gambia and the whole Senegambia region prevents much of the population from escaping desperate poverty, hunger and malnutrition. In fact both, livestock and crop yields in the whole African continent are lower than all other regions in the world. Low yields have been difficult to overcome because they are the result of a wide range of agronomic, environmental, institutional, social and economic factors.
Low input use, including total fertilizer input of less than 10 kg ha-1 on average, contributes to the Senegambia sub-region’s low crop yields. Although there is considerable variation across farming systems and countries, in the mid-1990s every country in Africa, south of the Sahara, was estimated to have a negative soil nutrient balance for nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Increased fertilizer use is seen by most practitioners as essential, reflected in the resolution by African Union members to reduce costs through national and regional level procurement, harmonization of taxes and regulations, the elimination of taxes and tariffs, and improving access to fertilizer, output market incentives, and credit from input suppliers. The cost of fertilization can also be reduced directly through fertilizer subsidies that were phased out as result of Western donor pressure since in the 1980s.
Agrochemicals, especially some synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, have caused negative effects on human and animal health and the environment in some parts of Africa; this has been exacerbated by unsafe application processes and inadequate access to information concerning handling and disposal practices. Pollution, particularly with respect to water bodies, may also result from inappropriate use. The economic, environmental and health costs associated with greater use of agrochemicals suggest that options involve reorienting research away from high-input blanket doses towards technologies that enable technically efficient applications specific to local soil conditions and towards integrated nutrient management approaches, experts have advised.
Increased use of both surface and ground water is required for The Gambia to be to make the level of productivity needed to be self-sufficient in any of its staple foods. Agricultural production there is predominantly rain-fed. Only 3.6% of agricultural land is irrigated below the regional average of 4%.compared to 37% in Asia and 15% in Latin America. This situation is made worse by the now highly erratic rainfall. On top of this, rising temperatures, perhaps due to climate change, decreased precipitation is turning more and more agricultural and potential ones into barren semi-arid ones.
Experts have tried to persuade Gambian government that smaller-scale irrigation, green water technologies such as water conservation, rainwater harvesting and community level water management need to be explored as alternatives to large-scale irrigation projects being eyed by Jammeh’s megalomaniac way of looking at things. Irrigation can come from both surface and ground water, drawing lessons from within and outside the region on viable small to medium scale irrigation techniques that require limited infrastructural development and can reach many farmers. Methods such as pumping from the rivers on an individual and small group basis, and locally manufactured drip systems are still to be fully exploited. Increasing the performance of agriculture requires an improvement in productivity on over 75% of the country’s farmlands few of which are bigger than two hectares.
The small size of most farms in The Gambia tends to make them unsuitable for heavy machineries for weeding, tilling or watering. This brings in the necessity of some of cooperative arrangements for both their procuring and the use of them. But cooperatives, to be member-focused and effective, must be independent from both state and political authorities. They need an independence that The Gambia’s current dispensation does not allow.
An example of this was the water-management committees set up for rice farmers in the CRR under the Taiwanese rice production project several years ago. After the Taiwanese mission left on the conclusion of the project, the farmers were organized into these committees responsible for managing the small petrol-driven pumps with fuel bought with the fees collected from members. Almost all the committees at the time of the 2006 presidential election were headed by APRC stalwarts and it did not take long before they all died out after fees for fuel were all squandered, pumps, ran without lubricants and soon got damaged or destroyed.
President Jammeh, under his rule brought in over thrice the number of tractors procured into the country under Sir Dawda’s thirty-year rule. But in terms of impact and life-span, Jammeh’s have not managed to perform even more than 10%, one retire agric official has claimed. First, came scores of tractors, some even brought in by air, Quadaffi’s Libya, which were distributed through the notorious July 22nd Movement and naturally squandered, none lasting for more than five years. Then came hundreds from India/s Mahindra Corporation, meant for a private-sector player in partnership with the supplier but diverted by the grabby president, loaning some to local government authorities on credit for garbage collection, selling some privately without any payment to the supplier in India and leaving nearly half of the number to lie idly rusting.
Let us hope that President Jammeh will open eyes and ears sufficiently to know some of the many challenges confronting Gambian agriculture.
Thanks Mr Sillah. This is a well-articulated article. You are spot on. Jammeh is insecure, if diaspora can remain focus and home active, like the opposition parties are doing, Jammeh will be found wanting.
Sorry to say this but Jammeh will win this coming presidential election 2016. This man made it very clearly that election will not unseat him and he meant it. Jammeh will not going to listen nobody else to relinquish power in respectful and peaceful manner; so let’s not think that at all. He knows he has done a lot of evil things and his hand have cover up with innocent gambians’ blood which he knows he will be account for it. So he will never step down just like that and no election will unseat him. He is well calculate smart dictator and he knows how to play his card games well. Sorry to all of us but we are just wasting our energy, time, and efforts for this 2016 presidential election in our beloved country Gambia. Dictator monster Jammeh will win again. That’s hard and bitter to swallow but it is the fact.
Edi boy, we’ll drop to the bottom together but he will finally go where armed robbers go, and that is hell! I don’t think Jammeh is more intelligent than any other Gambia. What makes him think he is intelligent is the fact that he has a lot of half minded citizens wielding AKs for him. What is definitely true about Yaya Jammeh is that, he never feels that sense of soverignity so he won’t hasitate to shoot at Gambians. Unseating Jammeh from power is nothing going to be easy as all dictatorships are and were, so i think that is exactly the reason why smart citizens refute the idea of military takeovers in any country in the first place.
Edi boy, I think you had good analysis of Jammeh’s desire to remain in power forever and I share your sentiment about election. Though I remain little hopeful that when the right opposition forces come together with Courage, determination and willingness to put their lives on the line to defy fear and intimidation, Jammeh will be gone. But if we continue to have the type of opposition parties we currently have, I think dictator Jammeh will be there in a long time to come. 2016 election is last opportunity to unseat Dictator Jammeh through peaceful means. I think dictator Jammeh knows that he has so much blood in his damn hands that he will do everything to stay in power. Jammeh is Very smart and a great criminal thinker. Therefore, every possible means should be used to get rid of him.
Edi we have to give democracy a chance by getting serious and uniting to fight the monster at the polls. Like Max said we need a new breed of politicians who are willing and able to fight fire with fire.
If Jammeh refuses to give up power after loosing this will be the only justifiable reason for armed resistance.
Quite interesting indeed. Opposition that would use fire for fire without having fire would be suicidal and senseless. I think only those who are advocating for such new breed of politicians must be real adventurers the country is waiting for and that can only be the likes of Paul and Maxs. Welcome, we are waiting and time is running out.
Edi boy, “sorry to say this but Jammeh will win this coming presidential election 2016. This man made it very clearly that election will not unseat him and he meant it. Jammeh will not going to listen nobody else to relinquish power in respectful and peaceful manner; so let’s not think that at all.”
What Jammeh said is not important and is not Gospel but what we do as Gambians collectively is what is important. It is the citizens’ voice and action that matters. The Gambian opposition is very active, more active than most opposition in Africa but they need support both in terms of resources and moral support from all positive Gambians to bring about Change. So lets support the party of our choice and allow them to do the painstaking job of unseating him. How we empower our citizens to see the urgency in bringing about change is fundamental if we are not to demoralize them to become apathetic. So lets move on and beat him to see if he would come down or not. The leader who defeats him will have the moral and constitutional authority to do what is necessary about it but until then it will be futile speculating about it.
As I opined earlier on above, in my view point Jammeh is below the average Gambians’ intelligence. His hungered clinging on power in the Gambia is due to nothing but a political mishap that cooked up from the darkness of the hearts of its citizenry combined, from time then till now. That situation is a grave one and so I think the Kairo news forums are a part of that process to help enlighten Gambians from within the obscure corners of their individual hearts. Some of us have no political experiences or ambitions but would like to express their view points anyway, in respect to their rights to a vote. Farmers, constructors, fishermen, cobblers, blacksmiths, the stallkeeper and the vegetable vendors all have a view point though they may lack the talent for good write ups.
It will be great if oppositions on the ground overcome the fear factor and put their lives on the line for me and others in the diaspora much more if they challenge that fear on their own and not anyone pushing them around to risk their lives. God bless the brave heroes on the ground where all the reality is.