The Gambia used to rely on imported seeds and nuts for farmers’ use in cultivation. Due to climatic differences with some varieties, they have been proven to produce bad quality produce at the end of the farming season.
The government therefore approved 20 million dalasi to the National Seeds Secretariat (NSS) to procure quality locally seeds and nuts that have been tested to have produced good yields.
The NSS came to being in 2017 because the country did not have seeds production facilities, seed inspectorate unit or laboratory unit to ascertain the quality of seeds used by Gambian farmers before.
The amount was approved as part of the D100 million supplementary budget allocation.
The government said the aim is to empower local farmers with the economic muscles that will allow them to increase in production at the same time expanding their scope of income generation.
“I want to ascertain that the twenty million allocated by the national assembly have been received and already fifteen million (D15m) has been used to procure quality rice seeds from rice growers,” says Abdoulie Kah, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture.
“These seeds were bought from certified rice growers in Central River Region (CRR) and Upper River Region (URR) and have already been redistributed to farmers across the regions of the country,” he tells The Chronicle.
He disclosed that the ministry of agriculture in consultation with NSS has agreed to use the balance of five million dalasi from the D20 Million allocation to buy farming implements such as a tractor and accessories, power tiller, multi-crop thresher, a truck and groundnut breeder seeds.
“I can also confirm that NSS has received the D20 Million and has buy Certified Rice Seeds from Certified Rice Growers in CRR and URR, the Department of agricultural services has already distributed these seeds to farmers in various regions of the country,” NSS Director General, Morro Manga also confirmed the release of funding.
“These materials will be used at our various foundation seed farms as it is the mandate of NSS to produce foundation seeds.” NSS Boss revealed.
The director of agriculture, Dr.Saihou Sanyang, said Gambian rice growing farmers have already been supplied with these government seeds meant to boost agricultural productivity, revealing that most of the farmers who received these seeds have confirmed their quality.
According to him, farmers have been confronted with difficulties in marketing their produce after harvest, arguing that the budget allocation will go a long way in addressing the market issues of the farmers thus availing them the necessary income to expand on their farming activities.
He added that rice farmers across various regions have benefited from the gesture, disclosing that West Coast Region received 172 assorted varieties of rice, Lower River Region 943 bags, North Bank Region, 1200, Central River Region North, 1283, Upper River Region, 1237 and Central River Region North 1300 bags.
Dr. Sanyang said the agriculture department has not received any complaints from farmers, stating that the country will end the dependence of relying on seeds coming from outside the country.
“The availability of locally bred certified seeds will have a significant impact on the overall development of agriculture in the Gambia,” director Sanyang said.
The chairman of Wellingara Turu Yuwurandy Fangkantaa Kafoo, Malang Fanneh says the government’s intervention in procuring seeds is important for farmers.
As the remaining D5 million of the D20 million was meant for other farm implements and creating a market, Fanneh says it will reduce burden on farmers after harvest.
“Many farmers have abundant fields they cultivate but due to lack of market this has been a problem for farmers. With this type of government’s intervention, many can be attracted to come back,” Fanneh tells The Chronicle.
Fanneh’s association comprises more than three hundred members who entirely depend on rice growing for the upkeep of their families. He said with the funding, the association has sold 350 tons, approximately 6000 50kg bags of certified rice seeds. He said the purchases have made cash available to members who may want to expand on their production.
He said three associations including Jahally, Medina Nfally and Niani Sukuta benefitted from the allocated seed fund.
“I think creating such a market for the farmers is very important if there is a need to embark on large scale farming. We are definitely appreciative of this gesture and we want to urge the government to continue doing such for seed growers as well as for the entire farming fraternity.”
Samba Manneh, a member of Medina Nfally Turu Yurawandy Kaffoo, is a beneficiary. He told The Chronicle that the cash will be used to buy fertilisers as well as expanding on his production capacity by planting maize.
“Immediately I received my money, I thought of expanding my production capacity by planting maize. I also spent part of this money to buy fertilizer, take care of my family’s needs including the daily fish money I spend for our survival,” Manneh told The Chronicle.
The Chief of Nianija, Dawda York is another farmer who benefitted from the government seed supply to farmers in his district. He describes it as timely and essential to farmers.
According to him, Covid-19 has imposed hardship on the livelihoods of many rural farmers, some of whom have even used part of their seeds for consumption. He added that without the government’s seeds distribution many farmers will be left out from this year’s farming season.
Chief York said farming is the surest way of developing the country, appealing to the government to invest more in the sector especially buying tractors, power tillers and building of access roads to the vase rice fields in Central River Region North.
He said many women in the region have abandoned their rice fields due largely to lack of access roads, hinting that if these access roads to rice fields are built only the women of CRR North produce enough rice for the country.
Hon. Morro Ceesay, Chairman Agriculture Select Committee at the National Assembly, told The Chronicle that the bill that encapsulates the D20 Million was well scrutinised to ensure that local farmers truly became the beneficiary of the seed fund.
According to him, officials of agriculture have justified the need for the allocation, adding that as representatives they ensure that whatever is given to agriculture is properly used.
“We have notified the ministry of finance that before any money is to be spent, we should be contacted. We also had a series of meetings with officials of the ministry of agriculture to ensure that any spending made from this allocating is geared towards the interest of the farmers,” Chairman Agriculture Select Committee.
He added: “previously seeds are procured outside of this country which involves lots of foreign exchange, this benefit goes to farmers outside of this country and with this allocation this situation has been turned around. If our farmers are trained and become certified seeds producers that is a big plus to our agricultural sector,” Hon. Morro Ceesay, Chairman, Select Committee on Agriculture.