The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently held a two-day capacity building for farmers on Disaster Risk Reduction and adaptation to climate change at Somita Mixed Farming Centre in Foni, West Coast Region.
Representing the FAO country representative in Banjul, the assistant representative of FAO, Mariatou Faal-Njie, said climate change is a threat to food security. She therefore noted the importance of building the capacities of farmers on how to combat, prevent and mitigate climate change at community level.
Madam Faal-Njie said the focus of the training is to ensure that they build the capacity of communities and targeted vulnerable households and people, as a fundamental mechanism to address their low resilience to hazards such as drought and floods.
Essa Khan, FAO disaster risk reduction consultant, recalled that Gambia government, represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, signed a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) with FAO in response to 2011 crop failure and 2012 severe whether condition in The Gambia.
This TCP, he said, enabled FAO to provide emergency assistance to households in the forms of seeds and fertilizer in order to restore their productive capacity. "However, given the phenomenon of successive droughts and floods such emergency assistance is important and relevant but their sustainability in the face of environmental risk factors cannot be guaranteed," he stated. Khan went on to outline the risk factors, which he said include soil erosion, salt intrusion, land degradation, potential sea level rise, and low soil nutrient levels. He therefore noted that the need to change the way they respond to crisis in the wake of aforementioned challenges to flood security should to be given due attention.
The ultimate objective, he indicated, is to build resilience to hazards,which he acknowledged cannot be built overnight. "It is a process and has to start by creating awareness, which would subsequently lead to action, " he emphasised, adding that it is a transformative process in the evolution of disaster management and a paradigm shift towards addressing environmental drivers of risks to food security and livelihood in general.
Ousman Jammeh, the regional agriculture director for West Coast Region, observed that climate change is very much linked to agriculture, as it affects rain patterns. Rrain, he went on, significantly reduces and leads to droughts, floods leading to food insecurity, while the farming and the larger communities suffer from poverty.
For his part, Sering Modou Joof, the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency, said the government of The Gambia is quite impressed with FAO intervention not only in educating farmers on disaster risk reduction and climate change issues but also coming up with plans to mitigate and prevent disasters.
According to him, 75% of disasters happening are manmade disasters.
He said the government is promoting and empowering communities to identify risk to hazards to ensure plans are made ahead to prevent, or mitigate disaster.
Joof advised that it is high time communities took charge of responsibilities, for resources are scarce and so available resources must be utilised effectively.