Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We welcome IFAD President's visit to The Gambia

Last May, we wrote an open letter to Dr. Nwanze, President of IFAD, International Fund for Agricultural
Development to express concern about the sudden push to establish a Food Security Corporation (FSC) by Yaya Jammeh as part of his food security strategy.  Next week, the IFAD President will be in Banjul for a two-day mission which will include an audience with Jammeh.

The FSC, according to Jammeh, is a component of a larger scheme known as "Rice/Food Self-Sufficiency, otherwise known as Vision 2016".

Prior to the day of the announcement, which was made during his first day of Jammeh's "Dialogue with the people's tour", no one in The Gambia ever heard of the scheme, including his Minister of Agriculture. At the time of the announcement, and as we have outlined in our letter to the IFAD President, we observed that even the farmers were surprised at the suggestion that the newly proposed Food Security Corporation.

We expressed concern about the far-reaching powers that will be vested in the FSC. Under the scheme, " a comprehensive review of land use will be conducted and all excess land will be freed for agricultural production. The FSC will act as a land bank. 

We feel that the FSC threatens the traditional land tenure system that has served the rural farming community well.  It threatens the social and cultural cohesion that has glued the rural communities through the traditional system.  We said then, and we maintain now, that FSC is a dangerous idea and should never be established.

As we suggested to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, we would like them to study Vision 2016 within the context of the IFAD-financed US$65 million national Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (NEMA).  The Appraisal Report for NEMA has confirmed that it is viable proposition, both from the financial and technical standpoint, and should therefore remain  as a free-standing project, unaltered.  To change it would require a fresh look at the entire project. 

We welcome President Nwanze's two-day mission to The Gambia where, we hope, all issues of concern will be discussed with both Jammeh, his Agriculture Minister and the Project Manager of NEMA who was arrested and dismissed from his job.  It was only a couple of weeks ago that he was quietly reinstated.  Now we know why.  

NEMA's resources should never be part of any of this ill-conceived, undocumented and haphazardly-prepared scheme called Vision 2016 which is driven more by politics than economics.  What is at stake is more than the US$65 million. The social and cultural fabric that glued the rural communities for decades is equally at stake and IFAD should not stand by and watch a bad idea threatens the fine work of IFAD.