The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has recently awarded The Gambia a US$34 million project to reduce the poverty of rural women and youth in the country.
The project, National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project dubbed Nema, is to increase the incomes of rural women and youth from improved productivity based on sustainable land and water management practices.
According to Mod K. Ceesay Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Nema project is one of the biggest IFAD programmes in The Gambia to help smallfarmers, especially women and youth, to improve land and water management to increase rice and vegetable production.
Momodou Gassama, coordinator of the project, said the Nema project is targeting all the six agricultural regions in the country and will focus on women and youth to enable them to participate more actively in development initiatives.
The Nema project would support and develop further The Gambia Government’s priority to transform the largely rain-fed production systems into sustainable market-oriented agriculture based on the smallholder, mainly women and youth.
Fatou Samba Njai, President of the Women Wing of the National Coordinating Organisation for Farmers Associations The Gambia (NACOFAG) acknowledged that farmers were fully involved in design of the Nema project.
According to IFAD document, the Nema project is designed to responds to two challenges for the sustainable socio-economic rural development of The Gambia - the limited productivity and economic carrying capacity of land used for farming; and poorly developed domestic markets that generate very low real (cash) demand for the main produce of smallholders.
The project comprises two substantive components that are mutually supportive. The first component, watershed development, is concentrated on investments in public and communal economic assets in order to raise the productive potential of the limited supply of agricultural land and to boost rice productivity and ensure year-round vegetable production through appropriate agricultural water control, retention and supply technologies.
The other component, agricultural commercialization, would provide strategic support to the rice and vegetable markets, from farm-gate-to-Gambian-plate, expressly to increase real cash demand for the produce of the mass of smallholders.