The European Union-funded West Africa Competitiveness Programme – The Gambia (WACOMP-GM) of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) provided equipment and materials to 120 gardens in the country, last week. They comprise 120 bench weighing scales, 120 portable stitching machines, 120 portable onion moisture meters, 120,000 onion leno mesh bags, and 200 standard plastic pallets.
In August 2021, WACOMP-GM conducted a Rapid Market Analysis (RMA) on onion and allied crops in The Gambia. The report revealed that the quality and safety of local unions are below the international standards of quality and safety due to pre-mature harvesting, absence of post-harvest curing and drying, absence of sorting, grading, weighing, packaging, labeling, and inadequate basic tools and materials.
These materials supplied are geared towards addressing some of these challenges and contribute to the improvement of the quality of onions produced to meet the expectations of both local and international markets.
Speaking at the start of the countrywide tour to deliver the materials to the respective gardens, Mr. Malamin Drammeh, the National Horticulture Value Chain Expert of WACOMP-GM said the support will increase performance along the value chains related to food safety and quality compliance and market access of the onion and allied products.
He urged the women beneficiaries of the vegetable gardens to make proper use of the equipment provided, using them for activities to strengthen the compliance of their horticulture and allied crops. He added that they should ensure the maintenance and proper use of the equipment by the manufacturer’s instructions and best practices.
Karafanding Badjie, President of the Berefet Women’s Garden, expressed delight over the reception of the materials.
“We have been working in this garden for a long time, but we have never received this kind of support. Tools are very important in gardening. The pallets we received and other materials like the weighing scales and onion bags will greatly help in our efforts to improve our livelihood,” she said.
She said the materials and the follow-up training which will be conducted are going to improve their knowledge, skills and boost their income. President Badjie thanked the UNIDO-WACOMP-GM and the European Union for the timely gesture.
Ousman Manneh, the President of the National Marketing Federation (Sosalaso), expressed gratitude and hailed the timeliness of the delivery of the onion bags and portable stitching machines as the marketing federations have just started mobilizing members to gather at collection points for the marketing of their produce to wholesalers.
“Access to new onion bags and stitching machines was a major constraint in the regions. Now that is history,” he said.
In February 2023, 19 participants comprising technicians from the Ministry of Agriculture, the private sector, and The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB) were trained in the assembly, operation, maintenance, and, repair of the Bench Weighing Scales. These trainees will now work with the beneficiary gardens to assemble the weighing scales and provide step-down training.
Similar training on the use of the other equipment supplied such as the portable onion moisture meter and portable stitching machines will be organized to strengthen the capacity of the beneficiaries for effective and efficient use of these materials.