FOCUS ON THE AGRI PROGRAMMES LINKING AGRICULTURE TO PROCESSING

PART 1

This column is devoted to monitor and report on issues relating to food River Gambia at Bannisecurity in the Gambia as well as the interventions of Government and Non-governmental Organizations.

In this edition, we are focusing on the agricultural programs geared toward food security as well as the experiences of farmers regarding the impact of such programs on their lives.

Since 2000, a number of programs aimed at increasing food security have been   elaborated and   are in various stages of implementation.

In addition, government harmonized its sector policies and programs with global and regional initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals

(MDGs), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme

(CAADP) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Common Agriculture Policy (ECOWAP) of the Economic Community of West African States {ECOWAS).

During the decade, the priorities of the sector have been to achieve sustainable food security at the household and national levels. Toward this end, there are calls for the Agriculture and Natural Resource sector to be commercialized, while at the same time linking small and medium producers to improved technologies and markets, and increasing   the competitiveness of the sector by reducing the domestic production costs, and improving quality.

The institutional structure of the sector is also being reformed to enable it meet the emerging trends. For example, given the increasing population of the country,   there   is   more   pressure on the   land,   and   increased demands for food and better living standards.   Furthermore, the relatively high poverty   levels in the country   pose serious threats to sustainable human development.

Against this background, there is now heightened awareness that the ANR sector can make significant contributions to national development.   The sector has potential to enable the country attain self-sufficiency in food production, and make   significant contributions to employment and incomes particularly for women and youths, as well as for development and growth.

For this reason, a new ANR policy has been elaborated to provide a framework for taking Gambian agriculture into the next century.

The ANR policy thus aims for a “robust, market oriented, commercialized sector that is directly aligned with the macro-economic framework of the country,” and contributes to the attainment of a “shared, inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth in the Gambia.”

The ANR policy has four strategic objectives to be attained by 2015, and they are:

1). Improved and   sustainable measurable levels   of   food and nutrition   security   in the   country in general and   vulnerable populations in particular

2). A commercialized ANR sector ensuring measurable competitive, efficient, and   sustainable   food   and   agricultural value   chains, and linkages to markets

3). Institutions (public   and private) in the sector are strengthened, and providing   needed   services,   strong     and     enabling environment, and   reducing vulnerability in food and   nutrition security

4). Sustainable effective management of the natural resource base of the sector

Gambia National Agricultural Investment Program (GNAIP)

In 2005, ECOWAS agreed on an Action Plan (2005- 2010) to implement both the   CAADP, and   ECOWAP.   ECOWAS was then   mandated to implement the Action Plan, and consequently, the Regional Agricultural Investment Program (RAIP), which supplements national programs within the framework of the CAADP. The RAIP is sub-divided into the following six sub-programs:

1). Development of Agricultural chains and market promotion

2). Improvement of water management

3). Prevention and management of food crises and other natural disasters

4). Improved management of the other shared resources

5). Sustainable farm development

6). Institutional capacity building for the implementation of the RAIP

A key step toward the formulation of the RAIP is   the preparation of National Agricultural Investment Programs (NAIPs) of ECOWAS member­ states.

These NAIPs are expected to be harmonized and consolidated, and thus form the basis of the RAIP. Towards this end, the Government of The Gambia, embarked on preparing a NAIP, with its two CAADP implementing ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Employment (MOTIE), spearheading the process.

The GNAIP was   prepared in a highly   consultative and   participatory manner aimed at producing a document that is not only of the highest quality, but also has the ownership of the widest spectrum of stakeholders (government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector).   As a framework, the GNAIP is aimed at helping achieve the policies objectives of the ANR policy, which ultimately help the country achieve the MDGs.   The GNAIP also provides the Gambia’s agricultural investment program in the six areas identified in the RAIP. The program is thus deeply rooted both in the national, regional, and international development frameworks and agenda.

 Part Two

In part one, it was indicated that since 2000, a number of programmes aimed at increasing food security have been initiated and are at various stages of implementation. In addition, government harmonized its sector policies and programmes with global and regional initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Common Agriculture Policy (ECOWAP) of the Economic Community of West African States {ECOWAS).

Part One showed that during the decade, the priorities of the sector have been to achieve sustainable food security at the household and national levels and toward this end, there were calls for the Agriculture and Natural Resources sector to be commercialized, while at the same time linking small and medium producers to improved technologies and markets, and increasing   the competitiveness of the sector by reducing the domestic production costs, and improving quality.

In this edition, we shall deal with Development of Agricultural Chains and Market Promotion as contained in the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Program blueprint.

DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURAL CHAINS AND MARKET PROMOTION

The Gambia produces a wide range of agricultural products which can be processed for both domestic consumption and export marketing.

However, the agro-industry in the Gambia is limited because the vast majority of the perishable farm produce have virtually no value addition after their   production.

These products are not processed, but are consumed in their primary condition. As a result, these perishable products are often wasted, or sold at a give away price.

Agricultural chains can make significant contributions to the ANR sector in the Gambia by helping to transform it from a traditional subsistence form to a commercial and modern one. This is because agro-industries and related activities   help   improve the   efficiency of value   chains   of high   value commodities for which the country has comparative advantages in producing, provide sustainable sources of income and employment, and can help the country fight cheap food imports.

Like the food production sub-sector, the agri-business and agro-processing sub-sectors are characterized by many smallholders using low output technologies, and   labour   intensive   systems, resulting   in   poor   quality products and low income. These sub-sectors also face many constraints such as poor feeder road network, inconsistent power supply, and weak   local demand.

Additional challenges include a poor communication network, undeveloped food   retailing, and lack of a temperature-controlled distribution chain.

Given the relatively small size of the Gambian market, the country has to tap regional and international markets if the sector is to achieve significant growth.

Against this background, the   National Agricultural Investment Program includes   a sub-program on the development of agricultural chains and market promotion.

In line with the thematic areas of the Regional Agricultural Investment Program for West Africa, this sub-program has three components namely: the   development of   food   processing   chains, strengthening of regional operator support services, and the promotion of intra-regional and extra-regional trade.

DEVELOPMENT OF FOOD PROCESSING CHAINS

The food processing sub-sector is important because of its direct link with agriculture, its contribution to food security for the nation, and its potential as foreign exchange saver through efficient import substitution.

However, there is little evidence of a coordinated, integrated, national strategy for agro-food industry in The Gambia.

This is a major constraint to efficiency of the various public and private organizations working in or on behalf of the industry.

The Gambian farmers   have   access   to   little   or   no   processing and preservation technology, particularly female horticultural producers. They still use the traditional preservation techniques such as sun-drying, salting, fermenting, smoking, roasting and grinding.

Besides, the sector mainly comprises grain-milling and edible oil extraction at the community-based level.

The vast majority of fruits and vegetables have virtually no value added to them.     Fruits and vegetables are among the readily   perishable commodities, which form   an   important part   of   The Gambia’s food supplies. The storage of fruit and vegetables in the rural areas is one out of several post-harvest constraints that farmers are experiencing each year.

The food processing activity in the Gambia is significantly constrained by inadequate quality of raw material, high post-harvest wastage levels (30-

50 percent), high production costs, and low capacity utilization.

Additional constraints include the absence of cold-chain, non-availability of. packaging material, limited   access   to credit, inadequate support services, absence of regulatory framework, unreliable supply of factor inputs, undeveloped consumer taste for processed foods, and a weak marketing and   distribution   system.

The government will address the sector-wide constraints through a strategy of public and private sector partnership. Toward this end, the private sector is expected to assume a lead role in the provision of enterprise investment resources   and entrepreneurial management to be facilitated by public sector catalytic roles.

Has this program been achieved? What is the situation of the farmers in terms of poverty and food insecurity?

 PART THREE

In part Two, it was indicated that the Gambia produces a wide range of agricultural products which can be processed for both domestic consumption and export marketing.

However, the agro-industry in the Gambia is limited because the vast majority of the perishable farm produce have virtually no value addition after their   production and that these products are   not   processed, but   are consumed in their   primary   condition. As a result, these perishable products are often wasted, or sold at a give away price.

In part three which is this edition, Farmers’ Eye will deal with the Food Crop Chain in the Gambia and subsequent editions, show the huge economic benefit the country would gain by processing them for both domestic consumption and export marketing.

FOOD CROP CHAIN

The seven major crops grown in The Gambia are groundnuts, the coarse grains (millet, maize, and sorghum), as well as rice, sesame, findo.

An estimated 197,856 people were involved in the production of the seven food crops, which thus provide both a source of employment and livelihood.

Coarse grains production and the area planted to these grains have significantly increased in the past few years.

Millet is the most widely cultivated coarse grain, and the area under millet increased 55 percent from 57,100 hectares in 1995, to 127,300 hectares in 2005.   About 51,000 households derive income from it.

However, groundnut is the most dominant one as it engages more people than any other crop.  Rice, which is a staple food, engaged 1 0,091 people, less than the number of people cultivating millet and maize.  The domestic market price for millet is showing an upward trend from 2001 to 2005, except in 2003/2004 where no significant increase was registered.

Maize produced is consumed and sold in the domestic market, and has been increasing in popularity, as indicated  by  area  under  cultivation.

However, production levels have varied over the past few years, from

27,700 tonnes in 2002, to 33,400 tonnes in 2003, and 29,200 tonnes in 2004.

In the same vein, prices have varied from D4, 920 per tonne in 2002 to

D7, 520 per tonne in 2004.

It provides a strong support to livestock sub­ sector, particularly poultry, in The Gambia.    An increase in livestock production may stimulate maize production as maize is a livestock and poultry feed.

Findo, which almost disappeared from the farming system because of the difficulty in processing it, has been making a comeback in recent years. The crop has mainly been used as a buffer/reserve crop during the hungry season.

Groundnuts remain the country’s main cash crop, and it is estimated that

80 percent of rural households grow the crop on over 40 percent of the land under cultivation.  The crop plays a central role in rural life, providing food, fodder and income, while also creating jobs in transport and processing, as well as foreign exchange (10.6 percent). According to the NASS 2005/2006 an estimated 105,260 households derive income from groundnuts cultivation throughout the country.

The recent Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) under the Integrated Framework estimated that in 2006, 30,000 tonnes of commercially purchased groundnuts yield US$8.2 million for farm households.

This confirmed the significance of groundnuts in households’ income and hence the impact of revitalization of the sector on poverty in The Gambia.

Despite the sub-sector’s importance, groundnut  farmers  are  among the  poorest   members  in  the  Gambian society,  with  76 percent classified  as poor   (Diagnostic Trade  Integration Study, 2007).

Although most of these products are consumed at the household level, some are sold at the local market and in cross border trade. The products also have  potential linkages  with  other  sectors  particularly the  livestock sub-sector,  where  they  serve  as feeds  for  livestock  and  poultry. Consequently, these crops also support other income generating activities such   as livestock   and   poultry   production.

Additionally, they   have potential for value addition activities such as production of flour and other processed products.

Part Four

 In part three, the seven major crops grown in The Gambia namely groundnuts, the coarse grains namely millet, maize, and sorghum, as well as rice, sesame, findo were showed and it was also stated that the agro-industry in the Gambia is limited because the vast majority of the perishable farm produce have virtually no value addition after their   production and that these products are   not   processed, but   are consumed in their primary condition.

 As a result, these perishable products are often wasted, or sold at a give away price.

In addition, promotion of agro-food processing would have significant positive impact on small farm holdings as it will provide them with a ready market for their produce. It would help to promote the development of cottage industries in the rural areas which may improve the income of the farmers.

The culture of quality control has to be built in the system in order to make it efficient.

Food crop production in the Gambia would be greatly improved if there is significant investment made in the following main areas:

Agricultural inputs and marketing

  1. Improved land tenure system
  • Soil and water management

 iv)Agricultural information, education and communication

  1. v) Suitable crop varieties
  2. vi) Storage   and   preservation facilities   (in addition, cold storage facilities for horticultural products)

vii) Access to finance and capacity building for small farm holdings

viii) Quality control system (including laboratories and human resources)

  1. ix) Water supply systems (e.g. bole-holes, concrete-lined wells, etc)
  2. x) Irrigation system
  3. xi) Crop management

xii) Marketing, processing and preservation facilities and techniques

xiii) Alternative energy sources that are cheap and affordable

ON HORTICULTURE

The horticultural sector is rapidly emerging as one of the key sectors of The Gambian economy. The sector contributes about 4 percent to GOP, and employs   over 65 percent of the agricultural labour force.

Horticultural production, mainly fruits and vegetables, is an important source of rural income, employment and food, thus ensuring food security and poverty alleviation.       It has great potential for export and thus foreign exchange.

The sector also contributes to import substitution, and has strong linkages to tourism and agro-processing industries. Increased horticultural production further adds impetus to the diversification of the country’s export base. Various studies in The Gambia indicated that horticulture is a sector where the Gambia has a.strong comparative advantage.

Horticultural crops (vegetables and fruits) are mainly concentrated in the Western and North Bank Regions, where the climate is more favorable for horticultural production, there is an increasing urban population, and the tourist industry provide a ready market as well. Although the sector has major private sector players, it also has a large number of small-scale growers, especially women. For this reason, almost 88 percent of women farmers in The Gambia are engaged in individual or communal horticultural activities, including the growing of perennial crops.

Most vegetables are grown during the dry season (November to June) when pests and diseases are less. However, yields and quality are generally low.

There are huge investment potentials in the following main areas of the peri-urban horticultural sector which would enhance the development of the horticultural industry:

  • Intensive and well organized production system/regime
  • Horticultural Inputs

iii) Marketing, processing, and preservation

  1. iv) Horticultural information, education and communication
  2. Use of improved varieties, including rainy season-adapted varieties
  3. vi) Cold storage facilities

PART FIVE

 In part four, it was indicated that Food crop production in the Gambia would be greatly improved if there is significant investment made in the following main areas:

Agricultural inputs and marketing

  1. Improved land tenure system

iii) Soil and water management

  1. iv) Agricultural information, education and communication
  2. v) Suitable crop varieties
  3. vi) Storage   and   preservation facilities   (in addition, cold storage facilities for horticultural products)

vii) Access to finance and capacity building for small farm holdings

viii) Quality control system (including laboratories and human resources)

  1. ix) Water supply systems (e.g. bole-holes, concrete-lined wells, etc.)
  2. x) Irrigation system
  3. xi) Crop management

xii) Marketing, processing and preservation facilities and techniques

xiii) Alternative energy sources that are cheap and affordable.

In this edition, Farmers’ Eye will feature the production, the yields and hectare cultivated from 2009 cropping season to 2013.

However, it is worth mentioning that in Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy 2009 to 2015, it was stated that “The country possesses self-reliant and sufficiency in its national requirements for coarse grains (millet, sorghum and maize) It is however seriously deficient in meeting its national requirements of the major food crop, rice.

Production of the crop has been on average 15-20 percent of total national requirements. In 2008, about 34,000 hectares were under production for the crop, producing about 38,300 metric tons of paddy. This was about 236 percent over the 2007 production of 11,394 metric tons. There is an on-going plan initiated by the government and activities have started to expand the area under production of the crop to 250,000 hectares in 4-5 years, with the expectation that this expansion will produce about 625,000 metric tons paddy”.

In its Strategies Priority, the policy stated thatSpecial National Initiative prepared and being implemented to increase rice and findi production by about 600 percent of present production levels by the year 2015, through increasing the area under cultivation of rice to 250,000 hectares, and that under findi by at least 400 percent of present levels”.

Since ANR Policy is phasing out this year, it essential show the production trend of the crop sub-sector.

The performance of the field crop sector during the period 2009/2010 to 2013/2014 has been fluctuating in term of production, yield and area cultivation.

Out of a total arable area in The Gambia of 558,000 ha, 318,464 ha were cultivated in 2009 while in 2013, 336,440 ha were cultivated.

Total production of rice and coarse grains in 2009 was 195,445 metric tons, in 2010, it was 209,504 metric tones, in 2011, 182,539 metric tons, in 2012, 222,388 metric tons and in 2013, 226,953 metric tons.

In term of cultivated hectarage, in 2009, 206,452 hectares were cultivated, in 2010,215,965 ha, in 2011, 227,343 ha, 2012, 245,262 ha and in 2013, 234,062 hectares.

In term of yield for cereal, the following has been registered:- 825 kg per ha for maize, 753kg for early millet, 792kg for late millet, 745kg for sorghum, 645kg for upland rice and 887kg for swamp rice.

In term of groundnut, the yield is 1.007 ton per ha for the 28/206 variety, 992kg for 73/33 variety and 947kg for Philippine pink variety.

It is very clear from the above that Production and productivity of both food and cash crops in The Gambia have been fluctuating and reason given by the farmers are rainfall, the untimely availability of certified seeds, fertilizer affordability and usability as well as inadequate farm implements particularly seeders and sine-hoes. Productivity is averaging less than 1.5 metric tons per hectare against an estimated potential yield of 3-4 metric tons per hectare for cereals excluding rice, and for rice, yields are estimated at about 6 metric tons per hectare as have been achieved from WAAPP Rice Innovative Platform in Boiram yet it has not been reflected in small farmers’ fields in the country as indicated above.

 PART SIX

 Farmers’ Eye has been touring the farming community and speaking to farmers on the impact of the erratic rain on the cropping season on their productivity. The response throughout has been that the crops were seriously affected thus resulting in a poor harvest.

Now that the facts are established, Farmers’ Eye will be dealing with the statistics.

In Part Five, it was indicated that the performance of the field crop sector during the period 2009/2010 to 2013/2014 have been fluctuating in terms of production, yield and area cultivation.

Out of a total arable area in The Gambia of 558,000 ha, 318,464 ha were cultivated in 2009 while in 2013, 336,440 ha were cultivated.

Total production of rice and coarse grains in 2009 was 195,445 metric tons, in 2010, it was 209,504 metric tons, in 2011, 182,539 metric tons, in 2012, 222,388 metric tons and in 2013, 226,953 metric tons.

In terms of cultivated hectareage in 2009, 206,452 hectares were cultivated, in 2010,215,965 ha, in 2011, 227,343 ha, 2012, 245,262 ha and in 2013, 234,062 hectares.

In terms of yield for cereals, the following has been registered:- 825 kg per ha for maize, 753kg for early millet, 792kg for late millet, 745kg for sorghum, 645kg for upland rice and 887kg for swamp rice.

In terms of groundnut, the yield is 1.007 ton per ha for the 28/206 variety, 992kg for 73/33 variety and 947kg for Philippine pink variety.

The total area cultivated in the 2014 cropping season is 315,141.68ha. This represents a decline of 6% over the 2013 (336,440ha) cropping season and an 8% drop over the five year average.

The decline in cultivated area is associated to late onset of the rains and its uneven distribution across the regions. The quantities, as compared to the last cropping season, has shown a high deficit in almost all the regions as manifested in the rainfall table above.

This situation has resulted to late planting and germination failure of some crops. Replanting became a problem for some farmers as they do not either have seeds for replanting or late to replant. Some farmers do not also plant, especially the late maturing crops, due to the uncertainty in the rainfall pattern.

Due to the above reasons farmers diversified there cropping cycle from long maturing to short species crops of economic and nutritional value such as water melon, sesame, pumpkin cowpea and sweet potato.

Total cereal cultivation is 231,055.06ha showing a slight decline over the 2013 season (234,062ha). However, paddy has slightly drop from 66,380ha to 66,286ha.

The slight decline of 6% in area put under cultivation this season does not actually translate into increase in production as it is not the only limiting factor, but also other critical inputs such as quality seeds, improved cultivars, fertilizer, agro-chemical, time of planting and most importantly, water could be the most limiting factors to productivity.

The total production for the 2014 cropping season stood at 257,287mt, representing a decline of 20% and 17% as compared to 2013(321,740 mt) and five year crop production average respectively.

Seriously affected are the cereals which have dropped by 23% i.e from 226,953mt in 2013 to 174,069mt in 2014. However, looking at rice as the staple food, a significant drop of 33% has been recorded. Many rice fields suffered from water stress, resulting to poor crop development and dry fields.