The Resilience of Organisations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Project (ROOTS) yesterday held a day-long policy dialogue forum on the theme: ‘The role of The Gambia’s Farmer Cooperatives in Agricultural Development, and the Implications of the new National Cooperative policy’.
The objective is to bring together stakeholders to share experiences in relation to farmer cooperative organisations in The Gambia and examine closely the new National Cooperative Policy and its implications.
The Root project is a six-year venture that aims to improve food security, nutrition, and smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate change in The Gambia. The project is being implemented in 39 districts of the five administrative regions in The Gambia and predominantly women at 80%, youth at 25% and People with Disability at 10%.
The project budget is D80 million, which the Gambia government provides counterpart funding for through tax exemption and in-kind contribution. The project, which focuses on rice and horticulture value chains, is organised into three components.
Mamour Alieu Jagne, Project Director, explained that the policy dialogue is meant to bring together policymakers and practitioners so that policies can speak to the realities rather than just being on paper. The ROOTS project, he added, gives them an opportunity to examine issues on the ground that has policy implications for the project in view of bringing it to the attention of the policymakers for a way forward.
“One topic we treated last year during the policy dialogue was women’s access and right to land, youth and agriculture,” he said. “We talked about why youth are not into agriculture as the country would like them to be. We brought in young people who are into agriculture – and they had successes and there are those that had challenges – so that policymakers could hear from them and as well try to make adjustments, if necessary,” he said.
Mr Jagne further noted that they talked about land development which is the main challenge they face to achieve the country’s rice self-sufficiency objective. He added that the participants at the meeting included engineers, policymakers, and farmers.
Jagne further emphasised that the country has a new National Cooperatives Policy, adding that they know that in the history of agriculture in the country, farmer cooperatives have played a significant role.
Musa Humma, Director at the Department of Agriculture, also dwelled on the importance of the dialogue, saying: “The dialogue provides information for the project director and his team as to how they will easily go ahead with their mandate on strengthening cooperatives and creating new cooperatives in the country’s agricultural value chain.”