First Lady says Gambian women should “own and manage lands”

Zeinab Jammeh

Women are key in agricultural production in The Gambia and often, activists argue, their productivity is hindered by lack of access to lands for agricultural production.

Many activists have advocated for them (Gambian women) to not only have access to lands for agricultural production but to have the opportunity to own and manage them.

Such were the arguments of The Gambia’s First Lady, Madam Zeinad Yahya Jammeh at the commemoration of the World Food Day in Basse.

The First Lady of The Gambia has urged local authorities in the country to grant rural women the opportunity to manage and own lands for agricultural production, arguing that such an initiative will increase women’s productivity.

In a speech read on her behalf by Fatou Mass Jobe at the joint commemoration of the World Food Day, October 16 and Rural Women’s Day, October 15, in Basse last Friday, Madam Jammeh praised the incorrigible stance of rural women in the drive for food self-sufficiency and poverty eradication in the country.

“…The issue of having rural women better access to land should be given priority, and here I wish to enlist the support and understanding of local government authorities such as governors, chiefs and alkalos,” she said.

“Since rural women work the land in the form of vegetable gardens and rice and maize fields, they should also be given every opportunity to own and manage land. This will help to increase their productivity, which will be translated into more food available for our citizenry… I am happy to say that rural women have continued to be the veritable bread baskets for our communities, who grow, nature, harvest and distribute grain, vegetables and other foodstuffs to our communities. Thus rural women are important, may be the most important, key link in the food supply chain of our people. This fact we recognize and applaud. We should also set ourselves targets and aims to achieve in our quest for food self sufficient and the empowerment of rural women.”

The First Lady also urged authorities to prioritize rural women in assistance of farm inputs such as fertiliser and healthy seeds as well as making better healthcare services accessible to them.

“Moreover, rural women should be given priority in allocation of farm input ranging from healthy seeds and fertilizers. In some cases, if the men have access to such, it is assumed that their wives or sister would also be covered. But this is not always the case. If men farmers have access to inputs, women farmers too should have access to inputs, and on even more friendly terms than men farmers,” she said.

“… The welfare of rural women in terms of access to health services, and amenities like day care nurseries, milling machines and health and environmentally friendly cooking fuel should also be made available to them to ease the burden of toil and child care, for example. I wish to enlist the support of stakeholders ranging from the office of the vice president and minister of women’s affairs, ministry of agriculture, ministry of local government and others towards meeting these objectives.”

The theme chosen for this year’s celebration by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was “social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty”.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Kalala, the FAO country representative, Aja Mariayatou Njie, the deputy country representative of the UN body, said evidence has shown that social protection is an effective policy tool that helps poverty eradication efforts in developing economies.

The FOA deputy rep explained that the UN body chose social protection as the theme of this year’s World Food Day because “it provides a way for the communities to make important infrastructure and asset gains”.

“Far from creating dependency, evidence shows that social protection increases both on-farm and non-farm activities, strengthening livelihoods and lifting incomes. Social protection also fosters more investments in the education and health of children, and reduces child labour,” she said.

“Social protection, in the form of cash, increases the purchasing power of the poor, who demand goods and services produced largely in the local economy, thereby leading to local economic growth… Social protection allows poor and vulnerable households to have a longer time horizon, offering them hope and ability to plan for the future.”

Francis Abanzi, head of programmes at the World Food Programme, said appropriate policies and actions are needed in the fight against food insecurity, especially in the rural areas “where the majority of the poor live”.

He added that “whenever there is food insecurity in a country, the economy does not function normally and when that happens, the food security of the most vulnerable in the society is threatened”.

The permanent secretary, ministry of agriculture, and Cherno Barry Touray, the deputy governor of Upper River Region, both praised the significance of the commemoration and the importance of social protection as a veritable tool in eradicating poverty.

Following the end of the day’s activities, a drama depicting the relevance of social protection policy was casted by a locally organized group.

A Trust Bank supported prizes were also given out to three lucky farmers among a host of others who have attended the commemoration and have their different agricultural produces displayed for viewing.

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