By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Members of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly commended the Radville Farms Project under the Gambia Growth and Competiveness Project (GGCP) for its indispensable contributions in improving the livelihood of farmers involved in vegetable growing and mango plantation.
Accordingly the average income of farmers involved in the project has increased by 150 percent above the target.
The law-makers, led by the honorable speaker, expressed their delight during their visit to the Farms World Bank funded cold store in Yundum on Thursday, 3rd November, 2016.
Speaking at the programme, Honorable Alhagie Sillah, said the visit is part of their mission to perform lawful parliamentary oversight to World Bank funded project sites in The Gambia.
The Project Coordinator of the Gambia Growth and Competiveness Project (GGCP), Mr. Tamsir Manga, said the Radville Farms Limited is part of the GGCP’s component called ‘Improving the Economic Clusters’. He said the sub-component, funded at 8 million dollars, aimed at improving the agricultural production of the country as the sector employs majority of the country’s population. He said the component seeks to develop the capacity of farmers to become more productive and competitive. He said the project has a mango out-grower programme which has 315 mangoes out grower farms in West Coast Region as a pilot project and that the second phase will include NBR and CRR.
He said before the inception of the project, the income for the mango farmers per season was D3,644 after sales and that with the intervention of the project in supporting and buying their produce, the farmers’ incomes rose to an average of D20,562. The project, he added, addresses the marketing constraints of farmers and motivated them to increase productivity.
The Coordinator of GGCP Radville Farms Project, Mr. Sulayman Mboge, said the project was approved on the 20th November 2012 for a period of three years ending 31st December 2015, though the actual project was designed for 5 years. He added that Radville farms pledged a total commitment of USD 1,065,277and GGCP pledged a commitment of USD 640,000.
He said as part of their cooperation, the GGCP provided matching grants for soft investment and non –capital input directly related to the scheme to match the private sector investment in establishing and managing the out grower.
He said the project stops the buying and selling of mangoes when the rainy season begins and that this is because they encounter a lot of issues with fruit flies.
He said by the end of the third year of the project, the average income of the out growers was about D40,000, adding that this shows an increase on the average income by 150% above the target.
Mr, Mboge said Radville Farms has a programme of up to 60 ha of land for out-growers which could earn them D5280,000 if all this land is put under baby corn production.
Lamenting on the challenges, Mr. Mboge, who doubles as the Finance and Operations Manager of Radville Farms Limited, said the project encounters constraints in high taxes on all their inputs, cartons, packaging, chemicals and fertilizers. He said they have inadequate labour and limited freight space. He said logistics of transporting to Dakar and tariffs on electricity bill had affected the progress of the project. Mr. Mboge said another challenge is the inadequate land available for use and the political nature of some communities in terms of land ownership, citing the example of Siffoe village.
Mr. Mboge later presented the 2016 Waitrose Way Award Winner by Wealmoor Ltd to the National Assembly. This award, he said, is made possible through working in collaboration with local communities in its operations in The Gambia.
Beneficiary farmers of the project, Bubacarr Sillah from Mandinaring and Aja Mai Bojang of Brufut, jointly commended Radville for the invaluable support it provided them. They said the project enhances their productivity and increases the income they gain from their produce. While urging the project to be expanded to other regions, the duo commended the project for improving their livelihood.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Honorable Abdoulie Bojang, expressed delight with the achievements the project registered, saying the attestation made by the beneficiaries is a lucid indication of the project’s success. While thanking Radville Farms Limited for their contribution to national development, he urged them to continue collaborating with the farmers to enhance their productivity.
“We as National Assembly will do all we can to ensure that Radville Farms is supported for wider coverage and sustainability.” The speaker said such investments are worthy as it helps to elevate the livelihood of Gambians. He said it is high time that the country starts making use of the resources it has to empower its people. He thanked the farmers for their contribution to the success of the project.
The Honorable Deputy Speaker, Fatou Mbaye, joined the speaker in thanking Radville Farms, she decried the loss of so much revenue through wastage of fruits and vegetables. She said this is due to inadequate storage and processing facilities in the country. “Fruits and vegetables are been bought by our neighbours and stored just at the border and when they are scarce, they are brought back for sale to us at very high prices. She urged the project to lay plans of expansion to other women across the country.
The Majority Leader, Honorable Fabakary Tombong Jatta, said the meeting availed them the chance to see the impact that the project has created. He commended Radville for its contribution in improving the livelihood of the farmers involved, adding that reduces the unemployment rate in the country.
Other members of the committee including Hon Ousman Bah, Hon Lamin Jadama, Hon Omar Tope and Hon. Muhammed Magasi all commended the project and raised salient points for discussion.
The visiting NAMs were later escorted to the project facilities.