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THEME: “ERADICATING HUNGER, POVERTY & UNEMPLOYMENT THROUGH VISION 2016”
WEDNESDAY 22ND JULY 2015
BISMI-LLAHIR RAHMANIR RAHEEM
Fellow Gambians, Thanks and praises be to the ALMIGHTY ALLAH Subhanaha Wa Ta’ala (SWT) for granting us His Mercy to witness the celebration of another anniversary of our epoch-making July 22nd Revolution in the political and socio-economic history of the Gambia, our Allah blessed homeland. The event always presents itself as not only a moment of joy and Thanksgiving but also as one of sober reflection to catalogue the achievements we have made and to renew our commitment to address the recurring constraints and confront the challenges that stand on the way of further progress. This exercise is however an inbuilt process in our strategic planning and management perspective based on clear national visions and succint mission statements that have been the bedrock of our development agenda.
During the July 22nd celebration we have also never defaulted on my pledge to you the patriotic citizens of this country, that on each anniversary of the July Revolution, my Government will either inaugurate or commission new projects or programmes. Thus as an integral part of the 21st Anniversary celebrations of the July 22nd Revolution, we shall launch projects to strengthen the enabling environment for the achievement of Vision 2016, 2020 and 2025 through more extensive infrastructural and service delivery projects in health sector, higher education, IT Agriculture and energy sectors among others. One of the highlights of the 21st Anniversary celebrations is also the Moscow-African Anti Drug Trafficking Dialogue which my Government is happy to host. The dialogue provides the opportunity to consult, collaborate and coordinate efforts of African states and those of the Russian Federation to control the menace of drug trafficking at the regional and global levels. It is therefore consistent with my Government’s policy of zero tolerance for drugs, which is a reflection of our mutual vision to nurture a law-abiding citizenry with sound minds and bodies bolstered by high moral values. I take this opportunity to extend a hearty welcome to all delegations from the Russian Federation and sister African states that have journeyed far and near to participate in this dialogue as part of the 21st Anniversary of the July, 22nd Revolution.
Fellow Gambians, distinguished guests, boys and girls, the thrust of my address on this historic occasion is based on the theme of this year’s celebrations; “Eradicating Hunger, Poverty, and Unemployment through Vision 2016”.
Vision 2016 is a development blueprint that aims specifically at not only achieving self-sufficiency in food but becoming an exporter of food products. It also unequivocally espouses the idea of perceiving agricultural production not only as a subsistence necessity but a commercial livelihood-improving activity. The vision is premised on the realisation that the Gambia is richly endowed with vast cultivable land, fresh water bodies, marine resources and a robust youthful population that will readily grasp self–empowerment opportunities if given the right motivation and sense of direction, skills, knowledge and access to programmes. Thus Vision 2016 is a fundamental strategic initiative for the eradication of poverty, hunger and unemployment, as it would significantly contribute to economic growth, offload the burden of food imports and enhance expansion of opportunities in all spheres of the country’s economic life. Agro processing which is the backbone of Vision 2016 would also create more employment opportunities for the youths of this country.
It is the realisation of these great potentials in Agriculture that informed and continues to influence, since the advent of the July, 22nd Revolution in 1994, our emphasis on collective self reliance as a nation. With the help of the Almighty Allah and with strong dedication, hard work, honesty, determination and a convergence of hearts and minds; we shall achieve both Vision 2016 and 2025 without fail.
Fellow Gambians, Friends of The Gambia, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Gambia has registered significant success in the eradication of poverty, hunger, and unemployment using innovative national development blueprints as catalysts. Key among these blue prints has been the Vision 2020 which was later strengthened by the MDGS, GNAIP, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE 2012-2015), and other Sectoral strategies.
While these national and international programmes have and continue to serve as framework for development activity, the other home-grown implementation strategies that we put together explain the successes we have so far achieved. We have since 1994 embarked on the robust empowerment of youths and women as the vanguards for the transformation of the economic life of this country, through which we targeted youth and women as beneficiaries of dedicated development programmes in education and skills training such as the National Youth Service Scheme, established by an Act of Parliament in 1999, The President’s Empowerment of Girls Education Project, Mechanisation of Agriculture by providing tractors free of charge, The National Enterprise Development Initiative in 2004 and of late the Vision 2016, the Songhai Gambia Project and the establishment of the National Food Security Processing and Marketing Corporation. We thank Allah SWT that My leadership philosophy of “Leading by example” by my direct involvement and participation in all development endeavours that I have espoused have been a source of sustained motivation and inspiration to Gambia youths and women in their participation as farmers, producers, and economic actors in the informal and SMEs sector. The response to my mobilisation calls such as “Operation Feed Yourself”, “Operation go back to the Land” ,“Operation feed the Nation”, “Eat what you Grow and Grow What you Eat” and “Eat the fish you catch and catch the fish you eat” has been impressive. This response was facilitated by dedicated initiatives such as provision of agricultural inputs, training and equipment. However, I firmly believe that my Government’s relentless efforts to instil in our youth and women, a sense of discipline, tradition of hard work and loyalty to the nation has clearly begun to pay dividends. This is why I did not hesitate and was exceedingly pleased to dedicate both the FAO and AU Awards for Hunger reduction and access to clean water respectively to Gambia Women and Youths.
Fellow Gambians, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, while we have registered significant progress in the reduction of hunger, we are yet to make appreciable improvement in the overall eradication of poverty and unemployment. Further improvement in performance continues to be compromised by high dependence on crop production, migration to the urban areas, high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, reluctance to move away from traditional methods of farming, such as subsistence Agriculture and reluctance to diversify our Agricultural activities coupled with the high dependency on the importation of farm produce.
However, my Government continues to address these challenges through initiatives to consolidate the gains made in hunger reduction that would lead to its eventual eradication in the very near future INSHA ALLAH. The introduction this year of increased crop cultivation in the dry season, commercial livestock and poultry production are all geared towards the eventual eradication of both Hunger and poverty. All these programmes cannot bear the requisite fruits without Agro-processing and massive investments in industrial fishing and processing since we are endowed with abundance of fish in our Territorial Waters. The coming years would see massive and intensified Agro processing and Fish processing Facilities across the length and breadth of Motherland Gambia.
Specifically, in livestock and poultry production, ruminant fattening schemes such as rams will be expanded and well established and the animals sourced both nationally and internationally. In addition, Livestock and Horticulture Development Projects would be extended to involve broiler production. Thus the expected massive increase in the production of meat and poultry products will reduce the heavy dependence on imported poultry products as well as create employment, personal incomes and assuring food security. This will complement recent developments in our expanding aquaculture. In addition, the opening up of more Agricultural land through land development and rehabilitation of irrigated fields will be supported by more enhanced mechanisation, and this will encourage the entry of more youths and women into farming.
In the quest to enhance the contribution of agro-processing in the realisation of Vision 2016, the business and investment environment is being continuously reformed through addressing supply-side constraints, promoting the development of large Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises in value-addition in the various sectors.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!
As at present, eighty farmer field schools are operational in the country for groundnuts, sesame, and cashew which have trained 2000 farmers. I am also happy to inform you that the training being imparted has already shown signs of effectiveness and efficiency; in that farmers are now producing better quality crops and in some places, yields have doubled. And, in order to enhance quality on a sustainable basis, a seed quality policy and national standards have been developed for seed crops relevant to Vision 2016. Additionally, the Gambia in the not too distant future will produce high quality seeds for export.
Fellow Gambians, to increase farmers’ household income, a matching grant scheme under the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project of the Ministry of Trade is providing support to promote economic activities in the mango, poultry and vegetables sub-sectors. Farmers are now investing gainfully in mango out grower schemes. The poultry out grower scheme has increased poultry production and farm revenues by 30%. Under the vegetable scheme, the Gambia Horticulture Enterprise and Radville farms are working with women vegetable farmer organisations to increase both the quality and quantity of horticultural production capacity and marketing opportunities for those farmers. These schemes will be replicated and scale-up throughout the country.
Fellow Gambians, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, one of the most formidable challenges for the realisation of Vision 2016 is the mobilisation of the requisite funds to finance its related interventions. We firmly believe however, that with the Almighty’s Blessings, we shall overcome these challenges.
Fellow Gambians, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the theme of this year’s address is to not only direct our collective effort in such important areas of our development agenda, but to also demonstrate the urgency with which we must act in order to put the destiny of our country firmly in our hands.
Agriculture and fisheries will be backed by large scale Mining operations and oil production in the very near future. Our Economy will be highly diversified and will not be dependent on only two or three core activities. Industrialisation would be key amongst all these economic activities.
On this note, I take this opportunity to thank both the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and all the principals, teachers and students for the establishment of so many schools farms to ensure self reliance in the not too distant future in the School Feeding Programme that has always been heavily dependent on the World Food Programme.
We are very grateful to the World Food Programme for giving us fish over the years. Now, we are learning to fish ourselves. The school Farms are very important in this endeavour to be self reliant. For school children they should not stop at participating only on the school Farms but extend it to their respective households by supporting their parents in their farming activities to ensure food security at the levels of families. For the Government officials, also, they are hereby encouraged to graduate from institutional Farms into individual farms. Engaging ourselves in this manner and across all spheres of our lives in support of the larger farming community, will significantly enhance our national efforts to eradicate poverty, hunger and unemployment.
Fellow Gambians, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, on this note, it is my honour and pleasure to wish you all a joyous 21st July 22nd anniversary celebrations and to all our guests on this historic occasion, a safe return to your various destinations. May the Almighty Allah continue to Guide, Protect and Bless Our Beloved Motherland as we strive for Economic Super Power status.
May Allah SWT bless all of us. I thank you for your kind attention.
As Salamu Alaikum Warah Matullahi Wabarakatuh
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