Abdoulie G. Dibba
The Gambia’s total national requirement of milled rice is 175,500 metric tons while local production stands at 24,895 metric tons or 14.18%, according to the Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy (2009 -2015).
Given the fact that rice is the country’s staple food, this figure is a far cry from the attainment of the widely stated 2016 Vision of the Gambia Government for food self sufficiency.
Alieu Njie, a farmer in North Bank Region (NBR), said as long as farmers are not in control of the water needed for their farming activities, it will be very difficult to attain food self sufficiency. He said dependence on rain fed agriculture is always problematic. He cited the current 2014/2015 cropping season which witnessed the late start of the rains. This, he said, will affect their output in terms of crop yields.
A woman farmer in Central River North, Sainabou Faal, lamented the unaffordable farm inputs and implements and said this is an obstacle to the attainment of food self-sufficiency.
Generally, the country’s agriculture has been characterized by subsistence production of food crops comprising cereals such as early millet, late millet, maize, sorghum, rice and findo and the cash crop production of groundnuts, cotton, sesame and horticulture. These are the two main components that occupy crop activities in the country and farmers generally practised mixed farming, although cash crops account for a greater portion of the production.
Post independence Gambia’s Agricultural sector has been based mainly on subsistence and rain-fed agriculture. In order for food self sufficiency to be attained, an alternative approach with effective policies are needed to diversify and depart from this dependence on subsistence and volatile rain-fed agriculture.
Figures have shown that the per capita consumption of the staple food of the country (rice) is 117 kilograms.