REVAMPING IRRIGATED RICE PRODUCTION IN CRR

The two most critical factors for attaining food self sufficiency in the area of rice production are abundant availability of fertile land and fresh water. Generally, it is assumed that countries that are endowed with these resources should hugely exceed the expected annual yield of rice for rice self sufficiency or food self sufficiency. Countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan just to mention few are able to achieve signicant success in rice production and they are major global exporters of rice.

Central River Region of The Gambia is the region that is most endowed with abundant fertile land and flesh water due to its uniqueness of accupying majority of the flesh water areas of the river Gambia. According to experts, the region has the potential of meeting the rice demand of not only the region but the entire country. However, the Gambia has never been able to attain this even though it had its golden years in the 1980s with the implementation of a rice irrigation project at the Jahally and Pacharr Smallholder Rice Development fields covering 1,474 hectares in the McCarthy Island Division in 1982. In 1998 another rice project called Rice Irrigation Development Project (RIDEP) started to boost irrigated rice production in CRR.  These projects constructed the initial irrigation infrastructures of many rice fields in Central River Region such as Jahally Pacharr rice fields, Janjanbureh and Sankulay Kunda rice fields. These fields were provided with pump irrigation facilities with concrete canals to supply fresh water to thousands of hectares thereby facilitating year round production of rice.

Today, most of the pump irrigated fields in CRR are not in operation as a result of very old and worn out irrigation infrastructures and inability of farmers to provide fuel for pumping

machines that are in good condition to pump water from the river to the rice fields. Most of the pumping machines and their irrigation canals were constructed 30 years ago, thus they had serve their useful life time and urgently need major redesigning and reconstruction to enable year round production.

To address these major problems in most of the rice fields in CRR, the Government of The Gambia and  Islamic Development Bank through the project  Building  Resilience to Recurring Food Insecurity in The Gambia made available funds for  the redesigning and reconstruction of 10 important pump irrigated fields amounting to a total of 264 hectares. These fields are as follows: Faraba Lay 30 hectares, Sankulay Kunda One 34 hectares, Sankulay Two 24 hectares, Sankulay kunda Three 15 hectares, Nema 38 hectares, Moriba Lay 10 hectares, Bansang Bantanto 26 hectares, Bansang North 14 hectares, Dobang kunda 35 hectares and Korop Burko 38 hectares.

On the 28th of May 2020, Ministry of Agriculture convened a meeting at Sankulay Kunda rice fields to officially hand over contract documents to the contractor AL Associates thus giving green light for the commencement of works on the fields. The event was attended by Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Nema Project Coordinator, Governor CRR, Regional Agric Director, Chief Lower Fulladou West and representatives of the ten fields.

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