Published On: Fri, Jul 19th, 2013

IFAD-supported activities go nationwide in The Gambia

After 31 years of successful work empowering smallholder farmers in The Gambia to increase their productivity, IFAD is now scaling up activities to cover agricultural areas across the whole country. A new IFAD-supported project, the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project, known in the local Mandinka language as Nema – meaning peaceful and prosperous – is just getting under way.

At the same time, the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project, or PIWAMP is concluding its work and assessing the results. The two projects are part of a 20-year programme for community-driven agricultural land and water development.

The nationwide reach of Nema is a tribute to the success of PIWAMP in providing infrastructure that has increased access to productive land. Before, many communities were cut off from farm fields during the rainy season, limiting how much they could grow. Life has changed in many villages thanks to the improvements.

Kebba Ceesay, aged 35, gathers sorghum into bundles before taking them to market. Kebba also farms rice, beans and millet in Dampha Kunda village, The Gambia.
Kebba Ceesay, aged 35, gathers sorghum into bundles before taking them to market. Kebba also farms rice, beans and millet in Dampha Kunda village, The Gambia. “The dike that was built protects the village from flooding. Now we have higher yields because the fertilizer stays in the soil and it’s not washed away by the rains.” ©IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah

An IFAD supervision mission visited project areas in April 2013 to assess PIWAMP’s progress. It found that most of the planned infrastructure works have been completed or are near completion. As a result, upland crop production of maize, millet, peanut and sorghum has increased significantly.

“Overall, household food security in the project sites has almost doubled, with the average hungry season experienced by families falling from nine months to five months,” said IFAD’s country programme manager for The Gambia, Moses Abukari, who led the mission.

“This is a result of both increased production due to reclamation of land and improved access to markets, which raises family income. But improving productivity remains a challenge,” he said.

Over the life of the project more than 80,000 metres of dikes have been constructed. In 2012, almost 300 metres of spillways were built, more than double the goal. Six bridges were constructed in five villages, giving women farmers safe access to fields that otherwise would have been unusable for all or part of the growing season. So far about 47,000 hectares of productive land have been reclaimed. Nearly 200 kilometres of inter-village roads have been built, helping families access the wider world, including markets.

With the new 8-kilometre road between Fula Kunda to Kayai, for example, residents of Kayai no longer feel they are “living in the bush”, Jadally Janko, secretary of the Kayai Farmers’ Association, told the IFAD team. During previous rainy seasons, goods had to be left at the village of Fula Kunda until the road was dry enough to use.

“Now, even if it rains, one can access the village at any time,” he said happily. “All we do now is to call a friend who picks us up by motorbike.”

In addition to infrastructure works, the project has helped farmers start associations, improving their business skills and enabling them to learn about land degradation and climate change. Activities have been supported in over 100 communities around the country.

As part of IFAD’s ongoing work with partners, geographic information systems are being used to map land and other resources in The Gambia. The European Space Agency (ESA) is piloting the use of this technology to monitor PIWAMP’s impact on rice production and to provide baseline land use information for Nema.

“This gives us hard evidence that can be used in policy dialogue,” said Abukari. “It enables us to demonstrate to government ministers the difference that this work has meant for their country.”

IFAD is working in partnership with the European Space Agency to map land cover. Read more about the partnership: A helping hand from above for The Gambia http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/ © ESA http://www.esa.int/ESA
IFAD is working in partnership with the European Space Agency to map land cover © ESA

To market: Transforming the agriculture sector

The new project Nema is the result of a request from the Government for IFAD to take the lead in implementing The Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan 2011-2015. The aim of the plan is to transform the agriculture sector from subsistence to an increasingly efficient market system. The end goal is to reduce poverty among rural women and young people. The target area encompasses all six agricultural regions along the Gambia River, essentially the entire rural sector of the country. The initiative is crucial to The Gambia’s economic growth, given that agriculture employs over 70 per cent of the population, more than half of them women.
“Women are the core rice and vegetable producers in The Gambia,” said Abukari, “and Nema has been designed by them and with them”. Around 180,000 women will be targeted for assistance with market-oriented vegetable and rice production.

Certified local seeds boost productivity

In 2011 low rainfall led to a nationwide crop failure – a catastrophe in a country where agriculture accounts for around one third of gross domestic product. Soon after, the PIWAMP distributed more than 50 tons of locally sourced rice seed to farmers. The National Agricultural Research Institute certified the seeds, which were distributed in 56 communities. During the project team’s visit, farmers confirmed that the seeds gave much better yields compared to varieties they had cultivated during the 2010/2011 season, and they were also drought tolerant.

Mama Jarju of Massembe was one of the farmers enthusiastic about the new seeds. She had increased her yield of paddy rice from 10 to 35 bags per half a hectare. She has also adopted other innovative practices that have contributed to her rising productivity. She plants early, hiring young people to help her with planting and weeding in a timely manner, and she puts aside money to buy fertilizer when the price is low. Most importantly, after seeing her husband use a sickle to cut grass, she began using it in place of a knife to harvest paddy rice. The knife shatters the rice grains, causing significant losses, but the sickle does not, and it is also faster. Other local women are starting to follow Mama Jarju’s example.

Aja Nyima Sillah of Jarumeh Koto is building a new house with the profits from her increased production, and thanks to a lesson she learned from the project about the importance of diversifying her source of income. Sillah, who is president of her local village farmers’ association, has been using some of the proceeds from her rice harvest to invest in livestock. She raises sheep, goats and cattle and now has 19 head of cattle. She also gives 10 per cent of her harvested paddy rice to support the most vulnerable people in her community.

“Farmers learn about each other’s innovations partly through farmers’ associations, which encourages adoption of good practices,” said Abukari.

Fatou Samba Njai (left), whose mission report noted the need for better training on issues such as safe use of agrochemicals, and stressed the importance of encouraging more young people to go into farming. © IFAD/Moses Abukari
Fatou Samba Njai (left), whose mission report noted the need for better training on issues such as safe use of agrochemicals, and stressed the importance of encouraging more young people to go into farming. © IFAD/Moses Abukari

A total of 128 farmers’ associations have been formed through the PIWAMP, and more than half the members are women. Fatou Samba Njai, Vice President of the National Coordinating Organization of Farmers’ Associations, participated in the April supervision mission. In her report she noted the need for more training on topics such as improved crop agronomic practices, good governance and safe use of agrochemicals.

Wanted: Young farmers

Fatou Samba Njai also mentioned the importance of encouraging young people to go into agriculture. Abukari supported this: “In the drive to transform rural areas and increase productivity, we need the energy and creativity of young people,” he said.
“They need training opportunities and decent job options so they can build their futures in the rural areas where they are needed.”

With IFAD support, a group of young Gambians recently participated in an eight-week training course at the Songhai Centre in Benin, which promotes sustainable entrepreneurship and works to link agriculture to industry and services. The trainees have developed personal action plans to share their new knowledge with their young people’s farming group.

A boy pulls a handcart of rice along a causeway constructed with support from PIWAMP. © IFAD/Moses Abukari
A boy pulls a handcart of rice along a causeway constructed with support from PIWAMP. © IFAD/Moses Abukari

 

Source: IFAD

http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/country/voice/tags/gambia/gambia_activities

 

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