|IFAD and local project officials visit a rice field in Central River Region of the Gambia under the Ifad-funded PIWAMP project (Photo credit: M.E.Njie)|
IFAD-funded projects in The Gambia, the rural finance project (RFP), participatory integrated watershed management project (PIWAMP), and the livestock and horticulture development project (LHDP) are on their final phase-out stages, according to Kebba L. Jarju, microfinance department Central Bank of The Gambia.
As a result, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, is linking project beneficiaries (farmers) of the three projects to microfinance institutions (MFIs) in their respective regions.
IFAD has financed nine programmes and projects in The Gambia since 1982, investing a total of US$53.6 million, and directly benefiting almost 120,000 rural households mainly women and youth.
Currently IFAD has funded three ongoing projects in the country, the Livestock and Horticulture Development Project of US$15.9 million approved in 2009, aims to help small-scale rural producers (mainly women) to increase their incomes by improving the yield and quality of their horticultural and livestock products.
A US$7.9 million Rural Finance Project approved in 2006 helps strengthen and consolidate existing microfinance institutions in Gambia and to enable them deliver financial services to economically active poor rural people.
While a US$17.5 million Participatory Integrated-Watershed Management Project approved in 2004 aims to empower poor communities in rural areas to undertake and maintain integrated watershed management activities, with the objective of increasing their incomes and protecting their natural resources.
And one newly initiated project, the national agricultural land and water management (Nema) has been designed to build on the achievements and experiences of earlier IFAD-supported projects in the agricultural sector.
Last week, Jarju told farmers in the West Coast, Lower River, North Bank, Central River, and Upper River regions that the Nema project design responds to two challenges for the sustainable socio-economic rural development of The Gambia.
Banki Njie, Business Development Officer for Nema, said that the overall goal of the project is to sustainably increase food security and raise income of smallholder [farmers], particularly rural women and youth.
This will be done by improving rice and vegetable production through land and water management practices with a focus on women and youth to enable them to participate more actively in development initiatives, Mr Njie said.
A microfinance sub-committee under the IFAD-funded projects is linking beneficiaries with MFIs with the intention of strengthening and giving them opportunities to have access to have finance.
Under the Nema business component, agricultural commercialization component would be to provide strategic support to the rice and vegetable markets, from farm-gate-to-Gambian-plate, expressly to increase real cash demand for the produce of the mass of smallholders, he said.
“The business development component of Nema is encouraging farmers to move from subsistence farming to commercial farming and create the opportunities for them move from poverty,” Njie said.
Ajaratou Ramatoulie Hydara-Sanyang, monitoring and evaluation officer RFP, said the project’s direct benefits includes reducing the drudgery encountered by women in their farming activities.
It would also improve physical access to markets and production sites and access to labour- saving devices such as land preparation equipment (power tillers, seeders), harvesting facilities and on and off farm processing facilities, she said.
“Nema project has [the] potential to transform agriculture and improve economic empowerment for the beneficiaries, thus improve food security,” she added.
Sheriff Sanyang, monitoring and evaluation officer LHDP, said the expected outcome of linking [rural] farmers with the MFIs is to help them advance their livelihood.
Written by Modou S. Joof