By: Kebba AF Touray
Gambian rural farmers have admitted that the agricultural sector, just as every other sector, has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mama Jabai, a female farmer and vegetable produce seller, told this medium that the pandemic has affected both her business and farming aspirations.
“I purchase these produces and resell them; but our village garden is not spacious enough to accommodate all of us in terms of our production capacity. So, I am compelled to go to Tamba Kunda (Senegal) to purchase these produces, load them on horse carts and transport them to my village,” she said. “Since coronavirus struck, the borders were closed and this closure has seriously handicapped and posed acute difficulties on my businesses. This has compelled me to sit down as getting these produces become a serious obstacle.”
These difficulties, she said, have adversely impacted on her business, forcing her out of business during the closure of the borders.
On the side of the year’s farming season, she said they have requested for farming requisites from the government such as animal breed for animal husbandry, but they were told at the time that they will be helped when the pandemic subsides.
“Getting those needs also proved to be a nightmare. Our farm produce are mainly purchased from us by the Senegalese at a more attractive price. So, when the borders were closed, it has barred those people from coming to the Gambia to purchase such produce from us,” she said
This has resulted in people still having their groundnut with them because they are unable to sell them to buyers from Senegal, Jabai said. She they were also told that some farming equipment such as tractors and inputs- seed and fertilizer- were available. But due to the coronavirus, she said they are still unable to lay hands on them.
Jabai said the lack of equipment has delayed her planting period as up to the time of the interview, she was yet to till her farm and sow the rice and maize seeds. She also said that at the time of the interview, they bought a bag of fertilizer at different prices, ranging from D850 and D900. To her, the unavailability of fertilizer led to the spike in the price of the commodity to D1000 at the moment.
“These are all attributed to the impact of coronavirus on our business and agricultural production crusades. So, coronavirus has seriously affected our work and businesses,” she said.
Alkali Jatta, former President of National Farmer’s Platform Association, said the news of the coronavirus as a killer alone can lead to instability of the mind for a farmer to concentrate fully on his or her faming activities. He said that for a farmer to carry out his or her farming activities, he or she ought to have a peace of mind.
“This has impacted negatively on the farmer’s efforts in boosting their agricultural productivity,” Jatta said.
Photo: Alikali Jatta
Jatta said accessing the fertilizer provided by the government is a challenge for some farmers, adding the fertilizer is inadequate compared to the demands of farmers.
He appealed to the government to establish factories and storage facilities wherein perishable farm produces can be stored and processed into finished goods to enable the farmer earn a living and curb the unemployment rate in the country.
Kaddy Sanneh, a horticultural gardener, told this medium that when the markets were closed, she found it difficult to sell her produce.
“The opening time of the market ordered by the government was also not sufficient for us to sell our produce. This has impacted on our daily earnings, as we were not having ample time to sell our produce. As a result, we have incurred great loss, as most of our produces are perishable. So, when we have left overs, they get perish as we have no storage facility,” she said.
According to FAO’s COVID19 Response and Recovery Program 2021, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2020 estimated that, as a result of COVID-19, an additional 83 to 132 million chronically undernourished people will be added to the total number of chronically undernourished globally in 2020, depending on the economic growth scenario used to make the estimates.
The said program appealed for immediate, medium and longer-term actions to prevent the health crisis from becoming a food crisis. The program aims to mitigate the immediate impacts while strengthening the longer-term resilience of livelihoods, moving towards a green recovery, and building to transform the agric-food systems