The President of the Gambia, Alhaji Sir Dawada Kairaba Jawara, held a press conference at the Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 12 June 1978.
"Thank you very much, Mr. Director-General, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press. First of all I would like to say how very happy I am to be here in Rome at the Headquarters of the food and Agriculture Organization during a mission which I am undertaking on behalf of the governments of peoples of the Sahel to discuss with the friends of the Sahel in its widest sense - members of the "Club Sahel" as well as others - who know of the prevailing conditions in the Sahel - who care - who are concerned - not only with the emergency situation but who are interested in recognizing the conditions prevailing in the Sahel as a challenge not only to the Sahelians but as a challenge to international community as a whole".
"The Sahel has a people who have been living in a reasonable equilibrium with their environment. From 1967 to 1973 the Sahel countries suffered consecutive years of drought and the catastrophe was magnified by the fact that neither the Sahelian peoples nor the international community were ready for that emergency. By the time they organized themselves, by 1972/73, great havoc had been done. It was for this reason that in 1973 the Sahelians formed the CILSS Organization to mobilize their human, technical ant other resources in order to better meet the situation created by the drought and the international community responded admirably once they woke up to the severity of the situation."
"The raison ??? of the OECD itself was rather similar to conditions which prevailed in the Sahel in 1973. The OECD came into being because after the Second World War, Europe and its peoples lay devastated and their economies ruined. They could not have effected the recovery they did without outside help, but the outside world, particularly the United States, rose to the occasion, instituted the Marshall Plan and through the OEEC - which is the predecessor of the OECD - they channeled massive aid to Europe and in less than a decade, in about a decade and a half, Europe recovered so much from its state of devastation at the end of the Second World War that they achieved a prosperity which they had never had before. We feel that the same approach to the problems of the Sahel could achieve results which would be gratifying to the international community. We are all concerned about international development. We know that it is not healthy that a proportion of mankind should progress and become developed - continually developing - while the rest of mankind remain in poverty. Peoples of the world all over should enjoy certain minimum basic needs and of course there is nothing more basic than food."
Summary of Questions and Answers during the Press Conference of The President of the Gambia, Rome, 12 June 1978
Question: You mentioned that you visited several States in North America. What were the results of the discussions you had?
President Jawara: I started my visit in the United State where I had discussions with the Vice-President, Secretary of State, and other administrative authorities, leading congress members, etc. I would say that my visit to the U.S. was positive. They are well disposed to the development aspirations of the Sahel. During the meeting in Amsterdam in November the results of my visit to the U.S. and other countries will become more evident.
After leaving the U.S. I visited Paris and held discussions with French Government authorities. The French Government has put aside some 23 million dollars to devote to the Sahel. And now we are in Rome and we confident that FAO and its associate agencies will continue to play their part.
Question: Could you please give us some precise indications about the food situation in the Sahel today as compared to five year ago?
President Jawara: Five years ago we had great logistic difficulties in transporting the food from ports to the inland parts of the Sahel - particularly in the land-locked areas. More recently the Swiss Government sent experts to regulate transportation. The only port where there is now congestion is Lagos.
Question: In terms of money, how much would you want from outside for your medium and long term development plan?
President Jawara: About 50 per cent of this programme is devoted to food production and for this we have to have infrastructure such as the building of dams and access roads. Rainfed agriculture must be reinforced with irrigation agriculture - utilizing the great rivers in the Sahel.
Question: Can you tell us it the Programme is fully subscribed?
President Jawara: The Programme is subscribed to about 25 - 30 per cent at this moment. I hope, due to my tours, that by the end of this year the percentage of funds for implementing this programme will have risen considerably.
Question: You mention the need for changes of changes of policy in the countries of the Sahel. Could you be specific?
President Jawara: Problems in the Sahel are first and foremost Sahelian problems. We want to assure the international community that we don't want to fold our hands and be helped. We need reafforestation in areas where the ecology is delicate and very fragile.
Question: What was the situation in the Sahel in 1973 and how has it changed?
President Jawara: Many of us are familiar with that crisis. The drought did not start in 1973 - it started in 1967 and by the time we got to 1973 there had already been six or seven years of consecutive drought with considerable loss of life. Statistics are not very accurate - but maybe up to 500,000 people could have died and at least 4 million head of cattle lost in the Sahel area.
Agriculture plays a large part in the CLISS programme including the traditional crops of the Sahel such as millet, sorghum and rice as well as cash crops such as groundnuts and cotton. There has been more investment in these crops in the from of fertilizers, pesticides, etc., and improved methods of cultivation. There are also irrigation schemes in the river projects. There is the ONBS - the organization for developing the Senegal River Basin. This is a shared regional project, soon to be implemented, between Senegal, Mali and Mauritania at a cost of 700 million dollars.
Another regional project - between Senegal and the Gambia - is the building of a barrage-cum-bridge in the lower river of the Gambia River Basin to prevent salinity. The main problem of the Gambia River is saline intrusion which reaches up the river as far as 120 miles. The anti-salt barrage is meant to check the salinity and thus will open up an additional 60,000 acres of excellent land for irrigated agriculture. There are to be other structures including two more dams.
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Background: The President of the Gambia, Alhaji Sir Dawada Kairaba Jawara, held a press conference at the Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 12 June 1978. President Jawara discussed immediate needs arising from the drought in the Sahelian Zone of Africa as well as plans for future development of this vulnerable region. President Jawara spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Heads of State Conference of the Permanent later-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). CILSS was created by governments of the region in March 1973 in the midst of the worst drought in two generations. The purpose of the organization is to coordinate both self-help and internationally supported development programmes.