Several rice producers at the Jahally Pacharr Ricefields in the Central River Region (CRR) of The Gambia have indicated challenges they are facing such as high cost of fertilizers and insufficient ploughing machines that are not available.
They called on the Ministry of Agriculture to address their problems quickly and urged the Minister to visit the site for first hand information.
Bambo Kanyi, Fulladu Saruja said he owns a rice plot at the Jahally Pacharr Ricefields with a measurement of 100*50 length and breadth respectively. His plot was seen bearing but he said it is late because he experienced late ploughing. He informed that usually rice production from transplanting to harvesting takes 2 or 3 months duration depending on the variety one cultivates.
“Our main challenges are lack of enough ploughing machines such as tractors and power tillers and this why we are always late.
“If we have machines at the right time, rice production will not only be easy for us but we will reap on time as well.
He added that fertilizer is another challenge, which he said is very expensive, despite its availability. He said the cost is challenging to them even though it is the government that brings it. He disclosed that the cost for a bag of fertilizer is D750 and four bags are needed for a plot.
Ebrima Jobarteh, from Bansang was also met by this reporter at the Jahally Pacharr Rice fields applying fertilizer to his bearing rice plot. Jobarteh 40 said he found his parents in rice production thus he could not remember when he started it. His plot which belongs to his family has a measurement of 25*50 meters.
“I did the transplanting in March 2017 and it has started bearing seeds now as you can see. This is a ‘Sahel’ variety which is very quick.”
According to him, the cost for fertilizer and ploughing are expensive for them making it a very big challenge that is confronting them.
“We are charged to pay D1, 200 for ploughing.” He said.
Samba Jaiteh, a native of Fulladu Wellingara who have 4 plots in the Jahally Pachar Rice fields also 40 years old said heed feeds his extended family through rice production, which he has been doing since his childhood.
He too reiterated the high cost of fertilizer and insufficient ploughing machines. Jaiteh said:
“A bag of Compound fertilizer cost D950 and Urea is also at the same price as we speak. If you don’t have money you cannot survive here because you cannot cultivate rice.
“We only work for subsistence purpose; that is just to have something to feed ourselves.
“We always incur losses in rice cultivation, because we do not recover what we invest, but we have to venture.
“This is an area that doesn’t cultivate peanut or millet so we have no alternative. This is why the government must come in to help us at least to fix the fertilizer at a lower price and also to provide farmers with more ploughing machines.”
He said tractor and power tiller operators are also charging them D1, 100, which is at high side for them as a poor farming community.
Meanwhile, Saikou Jagne, a native of Brikamaba cited water supply as a different problem they are encountering. With over 40 years in rice production, he is optimistic that the Rice fields can regain its glory days if government gives them supports.
Jagne said they encounter both low and high water supply as problems depending on, which area a particular plot is.
“The rice plots at Jahally Pacharr are not at the same level by height. When the plots that are on the high land scape need water those on low height will be affected by flood.
“So this is a problem that is inevitable unless the whole land scape is levelled.”
“The government should give us support by clearing the water channels that serves as water ways from the river. The plots on the high lands should also be levelled with those on the low lands.”
However, he too reiterated fertilizer and ploughing machines as part of their problems that need to be addressed by the government. He said the power of a tractor makes it suitable for them than power tillers.
Jagne’s plot is situated on the high land scape and it was observed that without his personal initiative to fix an irrigation machine that draws water to his plot, his plot not have water just like his neighbours’.
Jahally Pacharr rice field is a tidal system that supplies water through the channels from the river depending on low or high tide and not an irrigation system.
“Our cry should be addressed now as farmers after several years without response from the government. The new government must react now and the minister should be on the ground himself. There, he will understand our problems better than hearing from people.” Jagne concluded.