Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gambia: Small country with a big crisis

IRIN: There is mounting concern that The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country, could face yet another shortfall in the 2012/2013 agricultural season in the production of rice, millet, maize and groundnuts, the main crops, crippling its efforts to become food secure.

The planting season has begun, yet there is a huge seed deficit. “It is essential that farmers receive quality drought-tolerant seeds, as well as fertilizer and other production support by the end of May 2012 to start their next production campaign,” said Sonia Nguyen, a spokesperson for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the Sahel.

The Gambia, surrounded by Senegal, is part of the Sahel zone, and it too was affected by the late, erratic and unevenly distributed rainfall during the 2011/12 growing season. Crop production is expected to drop by more than half compared to 2010, and by 50 percent compared to the five-year average, said Nguyen.

Patrick Ezeala, spokesperson for Oxfam America in The Gambia, said there had been huge declines in the main food crops: rice (-79 percent), groundnut (-67 percent) and early millet (-53 percent). "Coupled with this production drop, food prices have gone higher than normal, surpassing the high food prices experienced during the 2008 global food crisis. The drop in production combined with rising prices suggests that seed insecurity will increasingly become a challenge for farmers."...

Groundnuts being bagged at the collecting centre of a Farmers' Co-operative Produce Union in Gambia in 1949, from The National Archives UK, under the Open Government Licence v1.0

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