Q | Finally, I know that agriculture is a passion of yours, do we see Africa’s future in an agricultural revolution, and why are you so passionate about agriculture?
I am a natural-born farmer. In my family, from my age upwards only two of us have been to school, the rest have always been farmers, so farming is in my blood. But I can’t believe that after all the arable land we have in Africa and the conducive environmental condition for agricultural production available in Africa, the continent is still a net importer of food such as rice. This is very, very alarming.
So the future of Africa and our independence will depend on our ability to feed yourselves. A prosperous and healthier Africa will depend on Africa’s ability to produce its own food.
Lack of food is becoming a deadlier weapon than anything else. For example, The Gambia is not an industrialised country, but we see children born with deformities that are horrifying, that are synonymous with highly industrialised polluted countries, yet Gambia is not a polluted country. So that can only be attributed to what we eat. And so the only guarantee of good health is our ability to produce what we eat.
Agriculture is very important and that is why I believe in leading by example. And I want to change the notion in this country that if you are a farmer, you are a social failure and that is why you are farming. Yet in most parts of the world the richest people are farmers. So I want to remove that stigmatisation.
Q | Can I comment on the Zimbabwean example, where the white farmers were commercial farmers while the rest of the farming population produced largely on a subsistence level, so, that’s not what you envision.
No, not at all. That is the problem we have in Gambian agriculture too, and it is something we want to change. Agriculture is not sustainable at the subsistence level because not all of us are farmers or can be farmers. So if we encourage subsistence agriculture, we are encouraging importation.
If I grow what I need to eat, then what about the one who is not a farmer who lives in the urban area where there is no farmland? So, let us move away from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture.
In fact my policy is commercial agriculture, I want to mechanise it and make it attractive for young people to get into farming and agro-processing. You cannot be independent if you don’t grow your own food. So let’s stop being net importers of food and become net exporters.
Nothing is more pleasant for me, apart from praying than having a long day’s hard work on the farm.