Monday, March 4, 2013

Gambia: Stakeholders must give maximum support to anti-poverty project or risk drawbacks

A rice field in Central River Region of the Gambia under the Ifad-funded PIWAMP project

“All of us should give maximum support to the Nema (agriculture) project to avoid pitfalls,” Mod A.K. Secka told stakeholders in the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development (Nema), an anti-poverty project in The Gambia.

The deputy permanent secretary Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs was speaking Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at the end of a startup workshop on the Nema project following its launch on Feb. 26 at Kairaba Beach hotel in Kololi.

He said the new agriculture project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD to the tune of US$64 million, is quite significant, and it is also IFAD’s biggest intervention so far.

“I believe after discussing the project for three days we are better now than before,” Mr Secka told officials of Government, IFAD and Gambian farmers who took part in the workshop.

The workshop was meant to identify and discuss together as to how they can reinforce the mitigation measures, and to enhance understanding among stakeholders about the project objectives and programmes.

The seven-year Nema project is intended to build on the achievements and experience of the earlier IFAD-supported projects in the same sector, including the three ongoing projects: the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), the Rural Finance Project (RFP), and the Livestock and Horticulture Development Programme (LHDP).

The Nema project is also expected to contribute to the overall goal of reducing poverty among rural women and youths, increase productivity, improved farmers’ income, expand rural economy for employment generation and reduce food importation - based on sustainable land and water management practices.

IFAD’s country programme manager for The Gambia, Moses Abukari, said the whole process has been overwhelming with commitment from the government - something he said shows the level of cooperation that IFAD has with The Gambia.

“We appreciate the ownership of the farmers and participants from other six regions in the country,” he concluded.

Importance of small businesses 

It is widely recognized that small businesses play a substantial role in a country’s economy, and the Nema has duly recognized and catered for their inclusion, through the Capital Investment Stimulation Fund (CISF) of the project, said Solomon Owens. 

The Gambia’s Agriculture Minister said the Gambia government will continue to explore various other innovative avenues which could lead to economic growth and further employment for her rural people.

Mr Owens hopes that the project will be implemented judiciously and diligently and that the impact will constitute a key step forward in their quest for food security and poverty reduction. 

The minister said the financing requirement of USD64, 000, 000 Nema project which IFAD is contributing half of the amount, will be a key player in the execution of the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan (GNAIP).  

This, he said, is the medium-term development framework for the agriculture and natural resources sector of the country. 

Great economic importance 

“It is only through the collective and collaboration efforts of all, built on a foundation of responsible partnership, that we can make meaningful progress in the realization of the goal of the project,” he said. 

He said agriculture continued to be of great economic and social importance to a large sector of the Gambian population. 

He also said agriculture has made tremendous strides to become an area of significant economic activity, out of which several types of vibrant, small agro-enterprises have evolved.    

Build on achievements

With the approval of the Nema project, IFAD’s total prtojects and programmes financing sum up to 10, resulting in total cumulative project cost of about US$197.4 million of which IFAD financing amounts to US$73.9 million.

“This is directly benefiting almost 150, 000 rural household across the country,” the Rome-based agency said. IFAD has co-financed some of the projects with Africa Development Bank and World Bank and six of these projects are closed.

Ebrima Jawara, Project Coordinator, Central Project Coordinating Unit, Ministry of Agriculture said the Nema project will build on the achievements and experience of the past and current IFAD-supported projects.

He said the workshop is to facilitate the whole implementation team to have a shared vision of the project’s expected impact, outcomes and outputs, and the strategy and processes involved to the attainment of the results. 

Mr Jawara said capacity development plan will be developed; feedback mechanism from the field will also be identified and developed, to enable quick decision on what to adopt and improve.

He added that this workshop will mitigate the usual pressure to get something going in a rush, by enabling all people involved in implementation to first reach a common understanding of what to be done.  

Gambia misses out  

Dr. Babagana Ahmadu has stressed that given the historical trends or modest reduction in poverty levels, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of halving extreme poverty will not be met by The Gambia if efforts are not accelerated. 

The current resident coordinator for the United Nations Systems in the country said regional poverty difference is a major concern but more so the growing inequalities as a 2010 Integrated Household Survey (HIS) shows that top 10 percentile of the population consumed 7.8 times as much as those in the lowest 10 percentile.

 “It will be of interest at this point to state that results of the Gambia 2010 IHS shows that 48.4 percent of the population is living below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day and when US$1.00 per day is used, 36.7 percent are poor,” Dr Ahmadu said. 

This, the FAO country Rep., says shows slight decline from 58 percent in 2003. Poverty is highest in the rural (73.9%) than in the urban areas (32.7%). 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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