DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL SERVICES
PROFILE OF ACHIEVEMENTS
1994 - 2001
The Department of Agricultural Services (DAS), formerly Department of Agriculture was established in 1923 with the mandate of mainly improving the quality and quantity of the groundnuts grown and the preparation of the Groundnut produced for export. Following The Gambia’s Independence in 1965, although the focus remained on increasing the export of the groundnut crop to earn the needed foreign exchange, the mandate of the Department expanded to include food crops (millet, maize, rice, surghum) and other cash crops (cotton and sesame). Although significant improvements were registered in subsequent years, gigantic steps were taken from 1994 following the change of Government and trough the introduction and implementation of well articulated policies, programmes and strategies as contained in the Gambia Incorporated Vision 2020. This document culminate in policy objectives for the crop sub-sector that aimed at increasing crop production and productivity, ensuring food security for the growing population, diversifying the agriculture base, generating employment and employing sound natural resource management practices through participatory approaches. Prior to 1994, the target of the Department’s agricultural extension programmes was the male farmers, which changed in focus from 1994 to the female farmers whose productivity in both on-farm and off-farm activities was recognized and appreciated by the new government and her development partners.
2:0 REVIEW OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
The total estimated area of 193,000 Ha. was cultivated annually prior to 1994 and this increased to 250,000 Ha. representing 30% increase during the preceeding years. Groundnut is by far the most important cash crop. About 75% of groundnuts are exported and 25% consumed locally. Rice and millet are the main food crops. About 25% of GDP is derived from agriculture, which also contributes nearly 90% of domestic export earnings, mainly through groundnut exports. Area harvested for rice , in the year 2000 is about 20,000ha of which only 1,500ha is irrigated. Groundnut being the most important cash crop, occupies 80,000 - 90,000ha (50% of harvested area). It is followed by early millet, 40,000ha (25%); rice 14,000ha (8%); then maize, late millet (6% - 7%) and sorghum (6%). Although rice is the cereal most often sold, sales rarely amount to more than 10%-20% depending on the household’s food security situation.
The majority of farmers are smallholders (less than 3ha per farm family) and are generally resource poor. There is heavy reliance on household labour and traditional farming techniques. However, there is large-scale use of animal traction which has enhanced mechanization on most of the small holdings across the country. Gender division has been predominant, with men generally engaged in upland mechanized cropping, usually groundnut, while women are mainly engaged in rice cultivation using intensive labour methods.
However, the gender division is slowly breaking down and currently about 23% of women are engaged in groundnut production and in the Upper River Division, as many as 66% of women involvement in groundnut cultivation have been recorded in recent years: The production of tropical vegetables and fruit is fairly well developed and horticulture has assumed an important role in export earnings in recent years.
3:0 THE AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION PROGRAMME
The agricultural extension programme which aims to increase the knowledge and skills of farmers through the dissemination of improved agricultural technologies focuses mainly on crop improvement, Human Resource Development and a collaborative programme with other government Departments and Non-governmental organisation . In response to the Vision 2020 agricultural objectives and the fact that the crop sub-sector plays a pivotal role in the economic development of the Gambia, extension efforts is focused towards more impact oriented strategies in attaining food security and thus alleviating poverty. The Extension agenda continues to focus on the use of improved varieties, soil fertility maintenance/conservation, effective water management techniques, processing and preservation technologies. This and other Department related achievements in food and cash crops production are discussed in this document.
4:1 THE PACKAGE DEAL PROGRAMME (PDP)
The need for the re-introduction of the Package Deal Programme was conceived in year 2000 following declining extension service delivery and reduced yields in some crops. Its implementation in 2001 was the result of the concern and support of central government through the Department of State For Agriculture (DOSA) that provided the initial input support of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. The objective was to sharpen and refocus the extension system and enhance the production and productivity of small-scale farmers and/farmer organisation on a revolving fund basis. The PDP has therefore resulted in the increased production of maize, early millet, rice and groundnuts to 344 hectares and 189.2 tons of compound (NPK) and Urea fertilizers. Besides, the PDP has enchanced the development and diffusion of relevant innovations/technologies in crop recommendations, Integrated Pest Management, Soil and Water Conservation and post-harvest handling of produce. The impact of the PDP on poverty is envisaged to be high.
4:2 HORTICULTURE SUB-SECTOR
The rapid development of the horticulture sub-sector is given high priority by The Gambia Government in its export-oriented diversification policy, growth of the productive sector strategy and overall socio-economic development effort of the country.
The production of fruit and vegetable in the Gambia is an important source of on-farm income and food for the rural farm families. Women perform the functions of producing vegetable, marketing the produce and feeding the family despite major obstacles. The Private sector acts as the vehicle of economic growth and export development and promotion of the horticulture industry.
The export of high value Gambian fruits and vegetables registered tremendous increases from 1994. The most popular produce exported includes chilies, Green beans, Aubergines, Asian vegetable, Mangoes, Papaya and Limes. The United Kingdom is the main-export market for Gambian horticultural produce accounting for 95 percent of export revenues.
The horticulture sub-sector has recently emerged as one of the Gambia’s key growth areas. In addition, nearly 85 percent of the requirement for fresh fruits and vegetables for the tourist population in the Gambia have been met by the sub-sector. Furthermore, nearly 60% of total women farmers are engaged in horticulture activities. Large commercial horticultural farms currently employ over 4000 labourers to produce primarily for export markets. Although horticultural development over the last years have been phenomenal, most of this growth has been mainly due to (I) the private sector establishment of commercially oriented, modern, large-scale producing and exporting operation; and, (II) communal village - based women vegetable growing schemes encouraged by donor assistance catering for the local market boosted by a thriving tourist industry and the role of the Government of the Gambia from 1994 in creating an enabling environment, stable macro-economic conditions, infrastructural development and policies to encourage expansion of horticulture as well as private sector development has been very encouraging.
The intervention of the Agricultural Technical Mission of the Republic of China in this sub-sector since 1994 has given a new impetus to the sub-sector and particularly the women who dominate the sector. The introduction of new varieties suitable for both wet and dry seasons coupled with improved production/water control practices has enhanced income, improved nutritional status, foreign exchange and therefore contributing significantly to poverty alleviation as can be seen at Banjulunding, Lamin and Sukuta Vegetable Garden Schemes.
From 1994 to date, with the introduction of projects like the Women in Development Project, Household Food Security Project and the Chinese Technical Mission Intervention, the sub sector has progressed by 130% in terms of yield increase, hectarage and quality of produce.
4:3 RICE PRODUCTION
The declining trend in rice production experienced drastic positive changes from 1994 following the intervention of the Agricultural Technical Team of the Republic of China, a re-focused Irrigated Rice Production Programme and provision of Tractors and power tillers by the Government that facilitated cultivation practices particularly for women farmers and the intervention of the Lowland Agricultural Development Project (LADEP) through the Soil and Water Management Unit that in 200/2001 alone implemented activities on soil fertility maintenance/conservation, water management and erosion control that achieved 7,279 metres of causeways, 8,267 metres of water retention dikes in 79 sites in the lowland ecology of the Gambia. In addition, a total of 15,147.5 kg of rice seeds recovered from farmers loans previously were-redistributed to farmers within LADEP intervention areas.
The ATM of the Republic of China continues to expand on the existing 200ha put to tidal irrigation of rice using low-cost technologies for which there is the potential for transforming 5000ha countrywide.
In the other hand, the Integrated Rice Development Project continues to make gains on both the irrigated hectarage on rice and the current hectares on tidal irrigation of the crop.
4:4 HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Significant transformation has been realized in the area of training particularly farmer training since 1994 with the establishment of the sub-Regional Farmer Training Centre at Jenoi through the South-South Technical Cooperation Programme with Indonesia. This Centre has to date trained 60 farmers in the sub-region and reached about 200 women’s groups in the Gambia with technical skills in rice production, resource management and Organisational Skills. The Centre Based income generating activities geared towards sustaining the centre have won wide admiration. The village based farmer training on farm implements/draft animals has enhanced increase cereal production in the Gambia.
In the area of staff training, great strides have been taken by government in training over forty staff overseas to B.Sc./Ms./Ph.D. levels in various disciplines in agriculture. Currently about ten staff of the Department are undergoing academic training at the University of the Gambia.
In addition, over 150 staff have been trained to certificate and Diploma levels at the Gambia College since 1994 while the annual refresher and on the job training courses have also continued uninterrupted.
4:5 SPECIALISED TECHNICAL SERVICES
The attainment of the broad objectives of the Department as indicated in its mandate, rests on effective and coordinated functioning of its individual components (Specialised Technical Units-Agricultural Input Office (AIO), Agricultural Communication Unit (ACU), Agricultural Pest Management Unit (APMU), Soil and Water Management Unit (SWMU), Food & Nutrition Unit (FNU), Horticulture Section and Training, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (T, M&EU). Their central role in providing technical back-stopping to the main stream divisional extension service which is in direct contact with the farmers has continued to be actively supported by central Government through the Department of State For Agriculture (DOSA) for the benefit of the farming community.
4:6 AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SUPPORT
The Government of The Gambia since 1994 had taken Agriculture as a priority sector in her development agenda and has provided the biggest support to the extension service in terms of both personnel and physical and financial resources. The advent of development projects in the sector since 1994 has to a large extension increased the capacity of the extension service which remained low in the past. These development projects include the Lowland Agricultural Development Project (LADEP), Rural Finance and Community Initiatives Project (RFCIP, and the Small Holder Integrated Project (SHIP) in the areas of Soil and Water Management, Access to Credit/Rural Banking and Horticultural activities respectively.
The support provided by these Projects has enchanced the capacity of the extension service to monitor and supervise crop production activities to improve productivity and alleviate poverty.
To attain the set policy objectives of the Department of Agricultural Services the Government of The Gambia since 1994 has used a series of intervention mechanisms outlined in this document. In the field crops sector, government embarked on supporting increased crop production through mechanization and irrigation projects. Private sector participation in cash crops marketing has been vigorously promoted. Also, rural financing is being supported through the encouragement of rural savings and private sector participation in rural financial markets. Support for agricultural services are geared towards such factors as increasing access to improved seed varieties, agro-chemicals strategies, and soil and water conservation for sustainable agriculture.