In a February 25-27 1994 edition of the Daily Observer, the paper published an article titled, “Farmers’ Plight Worsens, As Payment for Their Nuts Takes Months”.
In that article Gambian farmers were reported to have faced what many called the most difficult trade season for several decades. The farmers reported that the hardship they were facing emanated from the difficulty and delay they encountered before obtaining their money from the groundnut buyers.
Awakening that 22-year-old-long story and contrasting it with the current realities, one can vividly see the giant improvements that Gambian farmers are enjoying today. In Gambia’s current farming era, farmers have no worries over whether their farm produce would be sold or even if they are sold how long would it take them to receive their money.
At that time, some farmers even complained that their situation deteriorated to the point of them traveling long distances from the countryside to Banjul to sell their groundnut even though there were different buying points within the country.
In that Observer 1994 report, one farmer even said he had once traveled to Banjul to sell his groundnut only to be asked to go home and come for his cash on a later date.
The advent of the July 22nd Revolution was to change the course of history for local farmers. The Jammeh administration has introduced a system called On-the-spot buying and payment. Farmers no longer suffer the burden of traveling for long distances to sell their groundnut and other farm produce.
The Gambia Groundnut Cooperation (GGC), now called National Food Security Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC), the institution responsible for the buying and selling of Gambian farmers’ produce, now has its depots all over the country where farmers can pay less and save more to travel to the depots to sell their produce.
During that time, the Corporation used to buy groundnut from farmers at a price between 2000 to 2,200 Dalasis per ton. Today, the least buying price of groundnut per ton is D15, 000.
In the First Republic, there was no free gift of fertiliser. Virtually farmers’ yearly income all went into transport and purchasing of fertiliser.
Looking at the struggles Gambian farmers faced before 1994, today you can realise a kind of systematic transformation in the country’s agriculture with the President giving thousands of bags of fertiliser to the farming community annually at no cost.
The union that bought groundnut from farmers before 1994 even used to take loans from either the Standard Chartered Bank or the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation to finance the buying of groundnut.
In the Observer 1994 publication, farmers also complained that they even found it completely impossible to buy for themselves basic necessities like rice, sugar and candles because their purchaing power was too low.
All these disturbing stories have changed to the ease of farmers of today. With the Rural Electrification Project, every Gambian farmer is today assured that they would have no regrets venturing into farming.
There is every assurance that farmers would abundantly benefit from their sweat on the spot when they take their farm produce for sale.
by Amadou Jallow