AGRIC OFFICIALS REVIEW PROJECTS, DEVELOP 2015 WORK PLAN

Abdoulie G. Dibba

Officials and managers of projects under the ministry of agriculture have concluded on Friday, 21 November, the review of their annual progressAGRIC OFFICIALS REVIEW report and development of a work plan for 2015 at a two day retreat in Jenoi, Lower River Region (LRR).

The review and planning meeting focused on projects under the ministry of agriculture namely: the NEMA, LHDP, GCAV,MDG 1c, FASDE,P RFP, WAAPP and PIWAMP.

In his welcoming remarks, the Governor of Lower River Region, Mr.  Salif Puye, expressed his happiness to be associated with such a forum, adding that it could not have come at a better time when the agriculture agenda is food self-sufficiency.

Governor Puye noted that the attainment of food self-sufficiency depends squarely on the agricultural projects, adding that such a forum to synchronize and harmonize key processes is a step in the right direction.

In his introductory remarks as chair of the session, Mr. Ousman Jammeh, the Director General of Agriculture,  said the two-day project annual progress review and work plan working session was meant to create a platform for discussing and sharing progress made by the various projects in the year 2014, and plan for activities for the 2015 implementation period. The forum, he added, would also provide the opportunity to integrate the projects leading to the development of 2014 Agricultural Sector Progress Report and the 2015 Agricultural Sector Annual Project Work plan and Budget. He said it would also have the additional benefit of assessing the sector’s contribution to vision 2020.

Further outlining the overall objectives of the working session, DG Jammeh said it is to improve the conditions of the Agriculture sector projects and interventions by reducing duplication of project activities, and promoting cross-project learning that will lead to improvements and efficiency in implementation.

For his part, Mr. Falalo M. Touray, the Coordinator of the Central Projects Coordinating Unit (CPCU), told participants that their mandate is to coordinate all the projects under the ministry of Agriculture, as is clearly outlined in the Cabinet Paper which ushered in the Unit. He said the establishment of the Unit is in line with the broader national aid coordination policy that strives to improve the coordination of donor funding and donor funded projects.

Mr. Touray noted that a crucial and strategic starting point for an effective and efficient coordination and oversight role is to regularize, synchronize and harmonize key processes like planning, monitoring and evacuation, administration, financial procedures and standards within the various agricultural projects. He added that coordinated planning, budgeting and progress review for agriculture sector projects is therefore necessary to come up with consolidated sector annual work plan, budget and annual progress reports.

In delivering the opening statement on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Sheriffo Bojang, Permanent Secretary (2), described the day as marking a new beginning and as it was the maiden Annual Agriculture Sector Project Progress Review and Planning Workshop which, he added, has the potential of being a game changer in the Ministry of Agriculture.

For many, he said, the Agricultural sector is the most important sector of the Gambian economy, yet coordination, impact and progress are pervasive and that this forum was an opportunity to strengthen their condition as well as show evidence of their achievements as a sector.

PS Bojang said the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Plan (GNAIP) is the medium-strategic plan of the Gambia (2011-2015), and a framework that outlines strategic policy thrusts that guide project design, resource mobilization, allocation and implementation across the agriculture sector. The development objective of GNAIP, continued the Agriculture PS, is to increase food and nutritional security and household incomes through the six (6) strategic themes. He said this is driven by both the existence of clear sector policies and strategic direction that the government has commitment to improve to enhance national and household food and nutritional security.

Under the GNAIP, PS Bojang added, the portfolio of donor-supported projects has increased in addition to the already existing projects with a total value of close to US$150 million.

He disclosed that these projects are funded mostly by the traditional donors in the agriculture sector which include the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), World Bank (WB), European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) Agencies.

PS Bojang concluded that the projects are managed by different Project Management Units (PMUs) specifically hired to implement projects, and that this arrangement presents the decentralization benefits and opportunities for increased focus of specific interventions based on a specific set of predicable resources. He added that it also creates challenges for coordinating key processes like capacity development and many of the activities that are targeted for the same value chain actors.