FAO celebrates World Food Day in URR

10/20/2009 21:01

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Gambia joined the rest of the world last Friday, October 16th, to celebrate World Food Day. 

This year’s celebration was organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Gambia Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, in Basse, URR. The choice of the theme: ‘Achieving food security in times of crises’ aimed at reminding people that during this global economic crisis the small-scale farmers of the world, who represent 70 per cent of the world’s hungry people, are gravely affected in the wake of the surge in food and fuel prices in 2007 to 2008.

As part of the celebrations, a candle light vigil and farmers’ day was organised at Nasir Ahmadiyya Senior Secondary School in Basse. The candle light is an effort to reflect on the theme and to mobilise the general public in support of the fight against hunger, under-nutrition and poverty. Speaking at the occasion, Dr Babagana Ahmadu, the FAO representative in The Gambia, said that the events of the last three years have been particularly tragic as they have demonstrated the fragility of the global food system, and for the first time in history, more than one billion people are undernourished worldwide. He said this is about 100 million more than last year’s and it means that one every six persons, suffers from hunger everyday, and that this recent increase in hunger has not been the consequence of a poor global harvest, but was caused by the world economic crisis, which has reduced incomes and employment opportunities of the poor and significantly reduced their access to food. 

“It is for this reason that the theme chosen for World Food Day and Telefood this year: ‘achieving food security in times of crisis’ , is befitting especially at a time when the fall out from the global economic crisis still dominates the news. It is important to remind the international community that the crisis is stalking the small-scale farms and rural areas of the world, where 70 percent of the world’s hungry live and work,” he said. The FAO report indicated that in sub-Saharan Africa, 80 to 90 percent of all cereal prices monitored by FAO in 27 countries remain more than 25 percent higher than before the food price crisis began two years ago. “In Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, prices are mounted in a total of 31 countries and between 40 – 80 percent of cereal prices remain more than 25 percent higher than in the pre-food-crisis period,” he said.

Dr Ahmadu further disclosed that it is vital, particularly in times of crisis, that support is given to the agriculture sector as only a healthy agricultural sector, combined with a growing non-farm economy and effective safety net and social protection programmes will be sufficient to face the global recession as well as eradicate food insecurity and poverty. He observed that the World Summit on Food Security to be held in Rome from 16 to 18 November this year. He said this aims to keep the challenge of food insecurity top on the international agenda so that the right to food, the most basic human rights, be respected.

For his part, Bakary Trawalley, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, said this year’s celebrations of the World Food Day coincided with the 15th anniversary of the July 22 Revolution in The Gambia. 15 years ago, according to PS Trawalley, agricultural production was extremely low as a result of low area under production, unavailability of improved varieties and other inputs, lack of agricultural machinery, and also lack of national experts and motivational organisations of the extension services. 

According to him, all this changes came under the leadership of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh. He said the Jammeh administration had also witnessed the establishment of Vision 2020, a blueprint for The Gambia’s future, aimed at transforming the country into a modern state. He added that agriculture has been at the forefront of his noble ambitions for The Gambia. “He proved to Gambians that farming is not an occupation for the poor but rather a lucrative business that is dignified and can bring food and financial security to any individual who is ready and willing to take the challenge. His clarion call for Gambians to go back to the land has given tremendous dividend to the agricultural sector,” PS Trawalley remarked. 

He then confirmed that the total area of agriculture under production has increased from 237, 000 in 1999 to 356,000 in 2009. In 2007, he went on, groundnut production was at 72, 000mt and this year, its production capacity has increased to 140, 000mt. He further noted that cereals have also seen a progressive increase and rice has seen the most spectacular increase - from 38, 000 hectares in 2008 to 70,000 hectares and 68, 500mt is expected this year out of which, 20, 000 mt would be from Kanilai Farms.

However, PS Trawalley used the occasion to challenge the private sector to invest in agriculture as it is the engine of growth for the economy that could benefit a larger populace.  “It is also relevant to approach the sector holistically through the interaction of the whole production chain from production to marketing and consumption including value addition,” he concluded.
 
Author: by Fatoumata Senghore just back from Basse

 

Source: https://observer.gm/africa/gambia/article/fao-celebrates-world-food-day-in-urr

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