What has surprised you so far about agriculture in America?
My first surprise was the corn grown in America. 80% to 90% of the corn grown here is used to feed animals while countries in Eastern Africa produce corn as their staple food. If this is so, why is the government subsiding the corn farmers instead of those producing crops to feed the people?
The amount of rainfall is very small compared to The Gambia yet still the Californian farmer have more harvest than the Gambian.
The cultivation of hays is yet to be introduced in The Gambia.
What differences have you noticed between farms in Gambia and those here in California?
Farms in California are highly mechanized and industrialized with many inorganic farmers while The Gambia is at its infancy in terms of mechanization and industrialization. Almost all farms in The Gambia are organic.
Irrigation is an ideal substitute for rain in California while in The Gambia, without enough ground water resources, they are highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
The average age of farmers California is very high compared to the Gambia where the age range of farmers is from 20 to 55. Although many youths there are not interested due to the low income and high labor nature of farming. Farming here in America is mostly a retired man plan while it is regarded as an occupation in The Gambia.
Agricultural organization are better funded in US compared to The Gambia. I am already afraid of how I will secure funds to implement the kinds of programs I've learned here and want to bring back to The Gambia.
What similarities have you observed?
Farmer organizations in both countries are committed to supporting farmers, yet still most farmers are reluctant to pay their subscription fees for better institutional operations, which forces institutions to be charitable. Organized training for farmers by farmer organizations are honored, although in The Gambia, to organize a training you need to refund their fares, provide food and even accommodation.
Youths are not well motivated to farm. Even some farmers don’t want their kids to be farmers.
One trend that I've observed here is also in The Gambia: crops like vegetables, cereals, legumes etc. are being turned to tree crop farms like almonds because of labor and other related activities. The Gambia is losing it crop farms to Cashew farms while California is experiencing a lot of Almonds cultivation.
What do you think farmers in Gambia can learn from California agriculture?
For The Gambian farmers to be able to produce enough food for the country, advance farming practices like irrigation, cultivation, conservation, preservation, climate smart practices and marketing strategies will help them produce crops all year round with less labor and expenses.
The Government and philanthropies of The Gambia needs to support farmers and farmer organizations for the development of the sector. These are very much lacking. As a result, farmers are regarded as the poorest in the country. The initiation of the score cards in The Gambia will help farmers to have better policies but no politician will risk you position by going against the farmers who are almost 75% of the population.
What do you think farmers in California might learn from The Gambia?
The Gambia has established a perfect organic farming system for many generations with its soil requiring no fertilizer for cropping. This can be a good resource for learning.
It has also established a networking organization that provided the link between all farmer organizations operating in different areas and the government. NGO and INGOs. This organization also represents farmers in decision-making processes at all levels. This will be an ideal tool to give farmers a voice in California in policy decision making processes.
What is your hope for the future of farming, both here and back home in Africa?
I hope that The Gambia is able to improve its agricultural production and productivity to combat against food insecurity, youth unemployment and reduce high dependency ratio. And I hope California farmers can work together to have better policies to support their production and increase more organic farming for healthier citizens of California.