The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Abdou Kolley has reiterated that Agriculture continues to be a priority sector of the Government of The Gambia as it strives to achieve food self-sufficiency.
Speaking on Monday at the National Assembly chambers, while delivering the 2016 budget speech, Minister Kolley informed deputies that His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Babili Mansa’s call for citizens to go back to the land is still echoing in the minds of many and has inspired a lot of Gambians to go back to the land especially the youth folk in order to “Grow what we eat and eat what we grow.”
According to him, this year’s rainfall has registered marked improvement recording 901.4mm compared to 2014 when only 589mm was recorded.
The Finance Minister disclosed that the total cultivated area for the 2015 cropping season is estimated to be 338, 804 hectares; as par the pre-harvest survey. This increase of 5% over the 2014 cultivated area of 322, 711 hectares has been attributed to the various interventions in the provision of seeds and other inputs such as fertilizer to farmers.
However, he went on, total cultivated area for the 2015 cropping season is 2.7% below the previous five years average of 347, 861 hectares. The total production for the 2015 cropping season is estimated at 283,853 metric tons which represents a 10% increase compared to the 2014 production of 256, 898 metric tons.
According to Minister Kolley, the total cereal production for 2015 cropping season is estimated to be 189, 372 metric tons, of which 57,087 metric tons is rice and 132, 285 metric tons is coarse grain.
He said the total cereal production represents an increase of 9% over the 2014-cropping season. Livestock sector as a sub-component of agriculture is an integral part of economic activities in the country.
The Gambia Livestock marketing Agency (GLMA), he added, will be at full trot in the coming years to coordinate and improve the total contribution of this sub-sector in our economic development. “In that regard, GLMA will continue to facilitate links between its stakeholders and microfinance institutions or projects for the funding of their activities geared towards commercialisation of livestock production through the acquisition of loans or grants,” he told lawmakers in Banjul.
On artisanal fishing, Minister Kolley said, this has been an important mainstay in the economy but its potential remains to be fully exploited thus it is in recognition of this that Government entered into a 2-year Technical cooperation Programme with the FAO of the United Nations.
He said the technical cooperation programme aims at improving the development of the artisanal fisheries sector in the country. He added that the programme will as well help to enhance youth and women participation in the fisheries value chain in order to alleviate poverty, create employment opportunities and raise awareness in fish handling and greater involvement of Gambians in fisheries matters.
by Lamin B. Darboe