By Muhammed S. Bah
The Gambia National Army through AGCO Corporation an American Company based in South Africa will begin large scale agricultural production.
This project is aimed at achieving major food security in the country. President Barrow on Monday, April 08, 2019 received stakeholders of the scheme, the heads of the armed forces and their partners from South Africa, AGCO Corporation – to acquire firsthand detailed information about the fundamental components of the project, according to a Press statement from State House.
The partners and the army command had a series of discussion with the president who welcomed the project that is expected to meaningfully bring changes that could benefit ordinary Gambians.
The statement discloses President Barrow’s assurance of his office’s support to bring the objectives of this project to success. The statement stated that “The President added that such initiatives present ample opportunities for members of the security services to acquire useful lifelong skills that could be utilised even after active duties.”
It is disclosed that The AGCO Corporation, an American Company that has its regional headquarters in South Africa, is a global leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of agricultural equipment. The company has similar partnerships with the Egyptian army and other military entities in Africa and around the world to optimize the potentials of their militaries.
It is stated that the officials during the meeting stated that, their partnership in The Gambia will involve youth, women, small-holder farmers that include a strong network of operators in the production, supply, and processing of agricultural produce exported to the outside world.
Lieutenant General Massaneh Kinteh Chief of Defence Staff, who accompanied the delegation, stated the military’s involvement in agricultural production as part of their constitutional requirement. He added that the Armed forces, as part of the ongoing reforms, is looking at diversifying its roles and responsibilities in order to reposition itself in the productive sectors of The Gambia.
‘’We are looking at a whole range of agricultural production, from rice to moringa, aquaculture to ruminants and red meat to white meat,” the Army Chief said.
“It will be different from the past when people engaged in some low level practices. Rather, we want the millions being spent on the purchase of meat, rice or fish for the Army to be invested elsewhere in our needs”.
CDS Kinteh gave assurance on GAF’s capacity to feed the nation as well as export to other countries, while commending the political, financial, and technical support the project has received thus far.
Nuradin Osman, Vice President and General Manager of the Africa Group of the ACGO said their company is the third largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment in the world, and second in poultry productions and eggs. The project concept is to take security beyond the armed security to food security.
‘’The Army has the best engineering department. It has a formidable health unit. Hence including agriculture will give the opportunity to create a skilled labour that will help the entire nation to achieve the food security that Gambia needs,” he explained, announcing that feasibility studies are underway and that machinery and equipment will arrive shortly.
Mr. Osman said The Gambia has everything that the project needs to make it a success: ‘’a youthful population, plenty of fertile land, fresh water from the river and six months of annual rains’’.
Mr. Seedy Lette, a former Gambian envoy to South Africa and the Executive chairman of Global Africa Integrated Farms, PTY Ltd, said the fact that the military is a disciplined force, and that the security reform process is ongoing forms the basis of their choice as partners for this project.
Presentations were said to be moderated by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Cherno Barry.