Mayor Yankuba Colley, the APRC national mobiliser, has said that Vision 2016, the national plan for self-sufficiency in food production, has registered an almost 60% success.
Vision 2016 is an APRC policy that seeks to end rice importation in The Gambia by January 2016 but that deadline has been pushed to September the same year as a result of what Colley described as “some technicalities”.
The Colley, who was speaking at his residence in Tallinding over the Weekend, said the Vision has successfully spurred people back to farm.
“Yes, it was a promise that the Vision will be achieved but maybe there were some technicalities that are seen again by the technicians. But if you look at what is happening before the Vision 2016 pronouncement and now, you will understand that it has made a great impact in terms of farming in this country. People who have not been doing farming have gone back to the farm because of this policy,” Colley observed.
“If you go to Central River Region you will find people coming from all parts of the country to do farming. So the Vision has not failed! It has achieved about 50 to 60 percent of its target goals.”
Colley expressed his disgust over “why APRC critics make an issue out of Vision 2016” deadline push, adding that one can only be “independent if you can feed yourself”.
The APRC propagandist remains adamant that his party will achieve the vision.
“For the critics of the APRC, anything that we say even if it is positive, they brand it as a bad policy. That is wrong! You don’t criticize people because you want to be president; you look into what is being said,” he argued.
“What is wrong with saying let’s endeavor to feed ourselves when the world is talking intensifying food production? Reports are emerging that even the rice producing countries are having problems.”
The Gambian leader rolled out the ambitious and controversial policy last year, following which he came under a wave of criticisms from opponents who questioned its attainability based on the project time frame.
The Gambia, one of the Least Developed Countries in the world, spent D1, 320,373,000 (about US$50 million) on the importation of rice, according to official figures on the overview of the Gambia’s external trade in 2013 from the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), an amount little less than the D1.08 billion fortune spent on the construction of the 142km Mandinaba – Soma Road.
This astronomical figure on the annual rice imports as of 2012/2013 translated to 137,000 metric ton, with a domestic production of 41,822, and an annual consumption rate of 178,822 tonnes leaving a variance deficit of 137,000.
However, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, said pursuing a development policy that will help The Gambia keep such a good fortune within is laudable but added that he doubted its attainability because of the “insufficient time dedicated” to the course.
Speaking at his Kotu residence over the Weekend, the UDP leader described the Vision as a “piece of political garbage”.
“When the President made the pronouncement I thought that the initiative was laudable but the time frame dedicated to achieving it was short…,” he argued.
“The pronouncement of the Vision 2016 was mere political garbage. The APRC has been talking about self-sufficiency in food since 1994 and if they cannot achieve it at that time, how do they expect to achieve that in 12 months.”
The UDP leader said the APRC owe it to the Gambian people to explain why the Vision 2016 has not been achieved within the initial time frame given set for the project.
Darboe refutes Colley’s argument that Vision 2016 has spurred people to go back to the land saying “the intention of the policy was not to galvanize people to intensify farming in the country but “to achieve food self-sufficiency”.
“Banning rice importation in the country was not to say we are trying to spur people to go back to the land- it was to achieve self-sufficiency in rice,” he contended.
“I think it is fair that the APRC tell us why the Vision 2016 has failed… The Gambians deserve answers.
While there was not official explanation for the failure of the Vision, The Gambia’s vulnerability to the climate change which is closely associated with sea level rise, erratic and unpredictable rainfall pattern, among others, is significant.
In early November, reports have revealed that a rampaging flood resulting from heavy rains has destroyed at least 2,200 hectares of rice farms valued at 9.9 million Dalasis in Jahally Pacharr in the Central River Region.