Omar Jallow and Dr Katepa Kalala signing the agreement

(JollofNews) – The Gambian Government and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Friday signed a US$6.2 million (equivalent to D283, 604,855.60) project agreement designed to reduce the impacts of climate variability and change in the Gambia’s agriculture and livestock sector.

The four-year project will support the implementation of immediate adaptation priorities in the agriculture sector identified in the national adaptation programme for Action (NAPA).

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Omar Jallow, minister of Agriculture, said like many other developing countries in Africa and particularly the Sahelian countries, the Gambia is faced with enormous environmental challenges including land and soil degradation, deforestation and drought which have direct negative consequences to agricultural production and productivity.

He said these problems are further compounded by negative effects of climate change, which calls for concerted effort from all stakeholders in the drive to adapt to and to mitigate against its impact in order to enhance food security and sustained income for livelihood improvement of the population.

He added that the money from FAO will target 5000 households in ten districts in North Bank, Central River and Upper River Regions of the country that are most vulnerable and exposed to climate impacts, with no access or low access to information, knowledge and education and fewer resources (assets and income).

“The project seeks to reduce poverty of rural households, for security and malnutrition through increased agricultural production and productivity and commercialisation by strengthening the livelihood and resilience of the targeted households and farming systems,” he added.

“In addition, the project aim not only to diversify agricultural production towards more drought tolerant crops but it will also promote and support livelihood alternative.

“The intervention will therefore enable its beneficiaries to better cope with climate change and adapt their agricultural practices, including livestock management .women in particular (70 per cent of the targeted households) will benefit from more secure livelihood assets through the establishment of community gardens with irrigation systems, honey and poultry production.”

Dr Katepa Kalala, FAO representative in the Gambia said the project is consistent with the Gambia national agricultural investment plan 2011-2015 (GNAIP) which is aligned fully with the national development goals and aims to promote sustainable and diversified livelihood strategies for reducing the impacts of climate variability in the agriculture and livestock sector.

She said the world’s natural sectors, including agriculture, forestry and fisheries, face many challenges in meeting the food requirements of an ever-increasing population –such as intensive competition for and water resources and a degrading environment compounded by changing climate.

“Smallholder farmers, forest dwellers, herders and fisher folks are often the most affected by climate change because of their limited capacity to adapt to its impact,” she added.

“The project we are signing today will immensely benefit these groups to strengthen their adaptation capacity. The FAO remained committed to working closely with the government of the Gambia and all relevant stakeholders in the agriculture and natural resources sector for the attainment of its desired development goals.”