By Fatoumatta K. Jallow

The Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), on Tuesday, 27 September 2016, held a one-day Micro- Gardening Exposition and Demonstration Workshop at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The objectives of the forum are to promote urban agriculture, employment creation, income generation and food and nutrition security in the Gambia as urban gardening is gaining momentum in the world, in general, and sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, as part of a greener cities approach as well as food and nutrition security strategy.

Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, FAO Country Representative, said the phenomenon of the urbanization has negative influence on farming and agricultural development as it reduces the amount of land available for farming and other agriculture purposes.

She said this leads to reduce in agricultural activities in urban areas thus contributing to poverty and resulting in low levels of fruit and vegetable consumption compared to the 400 grams per day recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

“Using lesser land to intensively produce fruits and vegetables in one way to remedy the situation and enhance the food and nutrition status of households in the urban area,” said FAO Country Rep.

Madame Katepa-Kalala said to boost the overall supply of horticultural produce to the world’s developing cities, micro-garden, which is highly appreciated for its high efficiency in terms of land and water use, can facilitate daily access to a variety of horticulture produce of consumption.

“FAO promotes the sustainable intention of commercial market gardening on urban peripheries. In densely populated areas, it has a complementary strategy to help low-income households improve their food and nutrition security by growing their own vegetables in micro-gardens,” she added.

She also noted that working in collaboration with the city of Milan in Italy, FAO has successfully introduced micro-gardens and urban agriculture in over a thousand major cities in the world. “Most recently, FAO is implementing a Micro-garden project in the city of Dakar in Senegal with a Sub-regional outreach programme in Banjul and Kanifing municipalities, the cities of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Niamey in Niger,” she added.

Sariyang M.K. Jobarteh, representing the permanent secretary of ministry of agriculture, in his opening statement, said a great potential is attached to horticultural crop production in the Gambia, and that it has become a priority area for government towards diversification, food security, poverty reduction, rural development and economic growth and also contributes 4% to the GDP.

He said FAO has been assisting the farming communities to improve their production and productivity in order to be self-sufficient in food and nutritional security. “In response to the food and nutrition micro garden is another way of cultivating vegetable in a soilless method. By growing vegetable in micro garden, urban poor grow their own food to improve their own food and nutrition security,” he noted.

Mr. Jopbarteh said, “Micro-gardening can enhance food security in several ways so that families would have direct access to a diversity of fresh nutritional- foods, save on food bill, earn extra income from sales of excess garden products and have contingency provision such as chilies and tomatoes during seasonal lean periods.”

The Agric official said micro- garden helps poor families diversify their diet and reduce family food bills, adding that since poor urban households spend a proportion of their income on food, they are highly vulnerable when there is increase in food prices or their income reduces.