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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crop Failure Hits Gambian Farmers

Ahead of this year’s cropping season, The Gambia Metrology Office forecasted that though this year’s rainy season would start late and end early, there would be more rains than normal. The ‘good news’ it says was agricultural productivity will be good and farmers will record a bumper harvest.
But time has proven them wrong with regards to  their latter ‘good news’ prediction as, on the contrary, there is a general crop failure across The Gambia.
“I have been the chief of Jokadu district for more than two decades, but I have not seen this kind of crop failure in the past 20 years,” says Jim Fatima Jobe, district head of Jokadu in the North Bank Region of The Gambia.
“Our groundnuts have not grown up to standard neither are they fit to serve as seedlings come the next cropping season,” the longest serving chief in The Gambia told  our reporter, who recently visited four farming communities in the West Coast, Lower River, Central River and North Bank regions of The Gambia.
According to chief Jobe, with the exception of coos, none of their regular crops – groundnuts, maize and rice performs good. 
He said, the people of his region, who mainly depend on farming for their survival used to harvest what is enough to feed on till next season, but their livelihoods have been shattered.
With a yield that is grossly inadequate to feed them for the next season, talkless of banking some seeds, the chief says their only hope for survival and seedlings for next season is on government or donor assistance.
Sunkary Dampha is the technical adviser of The Gambia Rice Expansion Project in Si Kunda village in Jarra. He said, they have cultivated 42 hectares of Nerica rice under the auspices of the project, plus what they have for themselves but 95% of their total rice production failed due to shortage of rains.
“All the rice in the upland in Si Kunda are not good. The only good rice farms are the swampy land and even those ones have under-performed compared to recent past years,” Dampha said.
The people of Si Kunda, Dampha said, often do not buy much of the imported rice when there are enough rains. A hectare of rice can produce about three tons.
At Tonya Taba village, also in Jarra, the story is similar as people use their resources, efforts and time with virtually no yield.
Fatou Jabbi and her husband Demba Bakoto Ceesay have cultivated about one and a half hectare of rice while Satou Darboe, Karamo Sheriff Dibba all said they have cultivated a hectare each. But none of them is expecting anything from their rice farms.
“We don’t normally buy rice but this year we would because our rice crops have failed,” said Satou Darboe.
Wally Ndaw, the VDC chairman of Samba Njabeh village also lamented about the failure, saying they are farmers and rely on what they grow.
“The season is bad, we cultivated coos, maize and groundnut but the outcome is far below our expectation and we have never experience such a massive crop failure,” Ndaw decried.
In Sabackh Sanjal constituency, they sing the same song.
Balla Nget, the Alkalo of Mbappa Mariga village said this year’s season is one of the worst ever he witnessed.
He said, the season started well but due to inadequate rains, everything went bad, calling for assistance from government and donors.
Abdou Secka, a teacher and a farmer residing in Dibba Kunda village shares the same sentiment.
Balangharr, Kaur and surrounding villages in Central River Region all have similar story.
 Meanwhile, above 60% of the entire Gambian population are farmers, mainly subsistent. But this most important economic activity in The Gambia is almost entirely dependent on the three month rain fed, which is unreliable and erratic.
Now that the livelihoods of the farmers, who depend on their crops as feed provider, income and foreign exchange earner have been shattered, despair is looming large, if not already alive with them.
Author: Abdoulie Nget

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