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FAO, EU strengthen The Gambia’s Crop Pests Surveillance system for improved production and productivity

Participants at the opening ceremony, Photo credit: ©FAO/Amadou Bah

Banjul – High pest and disease burden remain major constraints preventing The Gambia from achieving set national and global targets on food and nutrition security, poverty reduction and sustainable socio-economic growth and development. The country only produces half of its national requirement of staple foods to feed its estimated population of 1.9 million. The perennial deficit in agricultural output has been exacerbated by the recent introduction of new invasive pest species such as Fall Armyworm (FAW), Mealy bug and Spiraling White Fly.

A crop protection expert, Dr. Lucien Kouame, is working with Plant Protection Services to strengthen national capacity and establish a comprehensive crop pests surveillance and control system for the country.

This work is supported by the $15 million European Union-funded project entitled “Agriculture for Economic Growth and Nutrition/Food Security to Mitigate Migration Flows”. The overall objective of the four-year project is to contribute to sustainable growth in the agricultural sector and reduce food insecurity and malnutrition, in order to create an enabling environment for improved economic growth; this project aims to invest in a market stimulation approach to provide the pull factor that drives commercialization of production.

Dr. Lucien Kouame on 9 May concluded a three-day intensive training for a team of 44 people drawn from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Agricultural Extension Services, Plant Protection Services, Farmers Field School Facilitators and the Agricultural Communication, Extension and Education Services. The training, held at the Senegambia beach Hotel, was jointly organized by Plant Protection Services and FAO.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Sariang Jobarteh, Deputy Director General, Department of Agriculture said, “The areas being covered during this training are very relevant to The Gambia”. He commended FAO and the EU for the intervention and their remarkable contribution to the country’s fight against food and nutrition insecurity and poverty over the years. He reiterated government’s commitment to the attainment of food self-sufficiency. Mr Jobarteh used the forum to emphasize the need for greater youth involvement in the agricultural value chain for the eradication of illegal migration, food insecurity and poverty. He challenged participants to take the training seriously and share the knowledge and skills acquired with the youths to enable serve as positive change agents in the agriculture sector.

Darrell Sexstone, Programme Manager, EU Delegation to The Gambia dilated on the objectives of the project supporting the training as well as the EU’s diverse support to the country in the quest to strengthen capacities to help combat pests and diseases for improved agricultural production and productivity. He underscored the need for concerted actions to address the problem of pests and diseases in the country.

Landing sonko, Director, PPS also acknowledged FAO and the EU’s consistent support to The Gambia for improved food security, nutrition, reduced poverty and increased access to the international markets.

Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, FAO Country Representative in a statement emphasized the importance of agriculture to the Gambian economy and populace noting that 72% of the population relies on agriculture for livelihood and 91% of the rural poor work as farmers. She however lamented that pests and diseases remain major obstacles to food security and access to international market for Gambia’s agricultural produce.

 Alignment with other interventions

The Gambian Government has recently benefited from FAO funded technical cooperation programmes on the Spiralling white fly and the FAW to improve food and nutrition security by reducing the damages caused by the pests. There are however challenges to manage other pests and diseases such as Fruit flies, which is a major insect pest of fruit trees especially mangoes. The Plant Protection Services is gaining experience in surveillance and capacity building to manage the fruit flies through the ECOWAS-Fruit fly management project which is ending this year.

The management of the fruit flies is by and large trap/lures and biological control with the use of a parasitoid (Fopius arisanus). The country’s commercial growers (Radville and Gambia Horticultural Enterprise ) have eventually experienced zero interception for the past production season due to improved plant protection management strategies, thus gaining better market access.