By Mam Ndegene Secka
Mr. Ernest Aubee of the ECOWAS Commission office in The Gambia has saluted the commitment of The Gambian government towards the development of the agricultural sector. Mr. Aubee who was speaking on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Victor Gbeho at the business meeting on the Gambia National Agriculture Investment Plan noted that the government of The Gambia has shown palpable commitment towards the development of the sector, and by so doing could pioneer a new interest and a revolution in the agricultural sector of the West African economy.
“This forum shows the interest and commitment of the government of The Gambia to the promotion of African agriculture. Everybody is aware of your country’s initiatives and resolve to lay the foundations for a genuine agricultural revolution not only for your country but for the entire West African region as well.”
Speaking further, Mr. Aubee highlighted four challenges confronting the sub region in its bid to ensure food security. According to him, the population of people who would be fed in the subregion continues to grow and this is expected to reach a 500 million threshold in the next 20 years. He described this as a daunting challenge, noting that in tackling this, all stakeholders within the region must cooperate within themselves and with the rest of the world.
He noted that ever since the process of development ECOWAP -the regional agricultural policy - was undertook to make the agricultural sector one of the cornerstones of the regional integration.
He said the regional agricultural policy has become a benchmark for ECOWAS and people beyond in terms of collective development, multi-stakeholders negotiation, and partnership with farmer organization, private sector, and civil society and development partners.
According to Mr. Aubee, this is an extremely challenging task requiring new learning on the part of our institutions as well as from all stakeholders. This process he said is still far from perfect but sees it as a policy now being advocated by all stakeholders who consider it “their policy” and not that of the ECOWAS Commission.
For her part, Dr. Janet Edeme from the African Union Commission (AU) office in The Gambia noted that the leadership exhibited by The Gambian government in the stocktaking process under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework which culminated in the signing of the Gambian CAADP Compact demonstrated political engagement from the highest levels and was a strong indication of government commitment towards the successful implementation of the compact.
Presenting a paper on the process followed in the development of the CAADP compact and the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Program (GNAIP), Mr. Abdourahman Jobe, permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture said that the GNAIP which was prepared through a highly consultative and participatory manner is expected to widen spectrum of stakeholders (government agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector) to have ownership of it.
According to him, the first step in the preparation of the GNAIP was the formation of an inter-departmental and multi-disciplinary taskforce to identify consultants and key stakeholders, and manage the process of preparing the document.
In line with the RAIP, Mr. Jobe noted that the GNAIP preparation team consisted of six teams, each focusing on one of the six sub-programs of the RAIP. “Furthermore, each team is headed by a team leader assisted by a consultant. As the leaders were drawn from institutions, their selection was based on the relevance of the theme to their institution. The team leaders were responsible for coordinating the work of the teams.”