‘Rising population may hinder zero hunger in Gambia’

The Minister of Agriculture has said the agriculture sector has registered significant gains in the past two decades but warned that the rising population is one of the factors that may hinder the realisation of zero hunger drive in the country.
by Lamim Babe Njie

The_GambiaThe Standard | 23 December 2014 – Solomon Owens made the comments last Thursday during the presentation of the ‘Fighting Hunger Award’ by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to President Jammeh in recognition of the country’s strides as one of thirteen countries to have moved closer to eradicating hunger.

He said: “While some other sectors have been hard hit, agriculture has demonstrated resilience during the recent economic downturn. Before 1994, food availability in this country was a big problem. You have the money, but you cannot buy the food because it was just not there.

“Food security has three components; availability, access and utilisation. If you cannot produce, you must have the means to access [food] and that is you must have the economic power to buy. Now despite all the significant progress since the adoption of the MDGs five years ago, a lot remains to be done.

“Considering the rising population and the inability of food production to cope or match the growing demand for food. Rising population is now one of the factors that may hinder our realisation of zero hunger in this country.”

The Gambia is one of the countries recognized this year for early achievement of the Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG-1) hunger target – to halve the proportion of hungry people by 2015.

Described by President Jammeh as his best agriculture minister so far, Mr Owens stated the liberalisation and growth of the agriculture sector by the government includes a common  commitment especially among women farmers and community organisations.

“Since the proclamation of ‘Going Back to the Land,’ years ago, women have really embraced the call. A contributing factor is the strong complementarity of the related sectors of this country. Let’s take water for example and under the government, we have realised improved water sources from 77.2 percent in 1992 and today it is 86.6 percent. As I mentioned earlier, vitamin A supplementation, we are at 95 percent which is one of the highest in Africa. Finally, the GDP per capita has increased. What we have achieved is moving from 13.3 percent of the population being hungry and malnourished to only 6 percent.  It is a huge achievement and this should have been more significant if it were not for the growing population we are experiencing worldwide. When hunger and malnutrition was 13.3 percent of the population in 1992, the population was only 1 million and today the population is estimated at 1.9 million.”