Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Agriculture as the most Important Sector

“Gambian Farmers Remain Poorest In Society” - Editorial

VOL:1 ISSN:30 Agriculture continues to be the most important sector in the country’s economic system and the Finance Minister even consented to this in his budget speech. The Minister disclosed that the sector performed reasonably well during the 2008/2009 cropping season with an increase in area and production for most crops, with the total cereal production is estimated at 284,700 tons comprising 223,700 tons of coarse grains and 61,000 tons of paddy rice.
According to him, groundnuts production is estimated to increase from 72,000 metric tons in 2007/2008 to 140,000 metric tons in 2009.

However, it is undisputable that farmers, who remain the poorest in society according to reports, depend heavily in agriculture for their household income. Farmers have over the years decried over low production or yield as a result of inadequate equipments and finance to buy fertilizer for their crops.
Though the Finance Minister has stated that the agriculture sector was well-equipped with inputs and operational equipment and tools, as over 130,000 bags of compound fertilizer and 100,000 sachets of seed treatment chemicals and herbicides for rice were made available in the country.
Media reports and information gathered from officials in the sector showed that most farmers were not able to purchase fertilizer for their crops, while other reports have it that the fertilizer arrived at a time when farmers no longer need it. The government should make sure that such incentives are available to the poor farmers at an affordable rate. In as much as we want to improve the living standards of our farmers as indicated in the Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper, we should try to provide them with all the necessities needed to revitalize the sector to improve their livelihood.
It is sad to note that 70-80 per cent of the population are engaged in agriculture and over 60 per cent of household incomes are generated from the sector, yet this section of the society remain poor. “With this statistic, it is a fact that majority of Gambians remain poor.”
The government should also work swiftly in introducing a new variety of groundnut as the variety we have in The Gambia is said to be infected with aflotoxin, according to findings made by the National Research Institute. The findings of the institute even indicated that the consumption of the variety of groundnut we have can lead to complicated health issues, such as cancer, abortion among other diseases.
Groundnut remain the main cash crop in The Gambia and need to be given specific attention as the cotton industry, which should have served as a gateway for the establishment of a textile industry(s) has been neglected and sadly died unceremoniously. This variety of crop could have in some amount lowered the country’s unemployment statistics as people would have been self-employed as producer or employed in textile manufacturing industry(s).

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