By Kebba Ansu Manneh
One hundred and twenty-five million dollars ($125million) Gambia Armed Forces and AGCO Corporation Company of South Africa’s large-scale agricultural project is hung in the balance for more than two years since officials of the two institutions visited the President on 8th April 2019.
Statehouse meeting with President Adama Barrow was presided over by a press conference where officials of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) disclosed that the project will greatly enhance the participation of the army in agriculture, especially in the areas of tidal rice irrigation, animal husbandry, aquaculture, horticulture, poultry production, moringa and sugar cane production.
GAF officials further disclosed that a special battalion will be created to venture into this sector that is hoping to address the dependence of the Gambian people on foreign food baskets. And also that, the project will enhance civil-military relations through job creation, and employment as well as contribute immensely towards national development.
Nuradin Osman, AGCO Corporation, Vice President and General Manager of the Company’s Africa Group, who briefly spoke at their Statehouse meetings with the President stated that AGCO is the third largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment in the world and second largest poultry and egg production company in the world. He added that feasibility studies were ongoing and hence farming machinery and equipment were on its ways into the country to start the multimillion agricultural project.
However, after all the discussions and engagements the Gambia Armed Forces had with local authorities in the Central River Region (CRR) North and South including other regions of the country the $125million project is still at standstill.
Ebrima Manneh, a Youth Leader in Kaur observed that so far there has not been any work such as clearings and landscaping or farming materials brought by the project to the identified rice fields in Kaur. Officials of the GAF only made one visit to the sites but since then they are yet to commence any work in the Kaur rice fields.
According to him, the youths of CRR were very eager for the commencement of the project that promised to create employment and minimise rural-urban drift as well as the ‘Back-Way’ syndrome.
However, he wants the Gambia Armed Forces to come out again to inform the public why the project failed to kick-start as well as clear the minds of the rural youths who are yearning for the commencement of the project.
One Alkalo who prefers to remain anonymous recalled that in 2019, Alkalos from Lower Saloum, Upper Saloum, and Nianija held a meeting with GAF officials at Buduk, Nianija where they discussed the allocation of unused rice fields to the army to start an agricultural project. He explained that the rice fields were identified with a subsequent tour of the sites with GAF officials, local authorities, and youth leaders but since after the visit no work has been done on the fields. “We did not hesitate to allocate some of our rice fields to the army as we were informed that the project will create jobs for the youths.
“However, I can tell you that since the (GAF) officials left, they did not call us or write us a letter to tell us why the project is still hanging,” he observed. He added: “We discussed a lot of things with them (GAF) at our Buduk meeting in the Chief’s compound, from there they also came here once on a tour of the identified rice fields we allocated for this project.
“We want to appeal to the GAF hierarchy to come forth and tell us what is holding this project so that we can know what to do with our rice fields because it’s been over two years now and we don’t see any progress on the project.”
The Voice Newspaper contacted the Deputy Public Relations Officer of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), Cpt. Malick Sanyang to shed light on the progress of the project, but he referred this reporter to Lt. Col. Lamin Sanyang, an official of the GAF-AGCO multi-million dollar agricultural project
The reporter also contacted Lt. Col. Lamin Sanyang who promised to call back but to no avail. We will endeavour to get part of the GAF as well as AGCO Corporation in South Africa in strives to keep you updated on Government Projects that failed to kick off.