Press Statement from UDP Secretary General

Secretary General of the UDP Workers’ Day & World Press Freedom Day Messages: COVID-19 and the impact on Agriculture in The Gambia –1st & 3rd May 2020
My Dear Compatriots,

Over the weekend the World Press Freedom Day and the May Day of 2020 were marked with the cloud of the Corona Virus Pandemic hanging over all us and without the usual fanfare and bonhomie of the past years. We thank all of you for the prayers you continue to offer our nation and our people in this blessed month of Ramadan at a time when like the rest of the world, we are experiencing unprecedented challenges.

The United Democratic Party reiterates our collective gratitude to the front-line health workers who are exerting maximum efforts under the constraints of limited resources to help contain a deadly pandemic whose full scope in our society is yet to be determined.

UDP continues to appeal to our government to ramp up their mitigation strategies in ways that reflect the gravity and urgency of this big challenge especially in the areas of expanded testing and upgrading of our severely under resourced health facilities.

UDP commends the efforts of the Private Sector, Civil Society Volunteers, the Gambian Diaspora, Individuals Businesses and Donors across the entire spectrum of our society within and outside of The Gambia who are reaching out to the needy with urgent relief supplies.
The need is great, and it would require collective collaboration and coordination; a sustained spirit of shared sacrifice and generosity to see us through this rough patch. Let us continue to be each other’s keeper.
For these reasons the UDP wishes to take the two occasions to salute all Workers and Journalists on the special days dedicated to them and to send out solidarity messages to the Leaders of the Gambia Teachers’ Unions, Commercial Trades Unions and the Gambia Press Union.

UDP is mindful that without the work of Journalists and the media it would be difficult to hold power to account. and without transparency and accountability the people will labour in vain. A free and vibrant press is essential to the health of high energy high democracy. Therefore, UDP calls on the Government to enact a Freedom of Information Act to ensure transparency and integrity in the management of Public affairs.

This Pandemic offers crucial lessons in the stark realities of where we stand as a nation both in terms of short- and long-term challenges when it comes to the basic needs of our people. The uncontested truth is that we are lagging far behind in most indices of human development. We must therefore begin to think about how we can better prepare our country post Covid19 in ways that lift our people out of cyclical poverty and all its attendant problems.

For example, we can look at agriculture as a sector where the vast majority of our citizens depend upon for their livelihoods. For generations and to date our farmers mostly rely on small subsistence farming; dependent on hand cultivation to survive, leaving them trapped in poverty and food insecurity.
This situation is made more acute with the uncertainties of global warming and its effects on rainfall patterns increasing the vulnerability of farmers who even under the best of circumstances survive on marginal yields.

The key to our success as a country is to get Agriculture not only for providing the needed food for consumption but also for business by giving it the highest priority in our national development objectives. We have the foundational expertise, the land and water resources, appropriate climate and crucially a youthful population that can start, sustain, and grow a modern, diverse, and innovative agriculture sector that can anchor our economy into the future. We must look beyond business as usual and ensure that we see Agriculture as a business and encourage our youths to go into agriculture as “Agripreneurs”.

A robust and technologically advanced agriculture initiative that is carefully planned and managed, the establishment of agro-processing zones in which we can support the entire agriculture value chain would revolutionize farming, revitalize rural communities, create steady year-round incomes for farmers and ensure food security. It would create a stable economic base, positively impact the overall health of the citizens as both nutrition and income levels rise.

That is why the United Democratic Party is committed to make this vital sector one of our highest priorities. We strongly believe The Gambia should follow through with the AU declaration that was signed in 2003 in Maputo requiring member States to allocate 10% of their annual national budgets to agriculture and rural development. That would represent a significant departure from the paltry less than 2% we are currently allocating.

We can and must do better by our farmers because we cannot progress unless we address a sector in which nearly three quarters of our people depend upon. Like other nations that have succeeded in transforming agriculture, we must think big, we must sacrifice in the short term, we must invest in our people and pivot from hard scrabble subsistence farming to something better and more suited to the needs of our people now and into the future.

I thank you all!

Ousainou ANM Darboe
SECRETARY GENERAL & PARTY LEADER

Ends

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