FAO assistance in the Gambia focuses on four medium-term priority areas: Agricultural productivity and commercialization, through improving productivity, production and capacity; Sustainable natural resources and development; Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, building on the institutional and technical capacities of government and communities in disaster risk reduction and improving smallholder adaptation to climate change; Improved food and nutrition security at the household, school and community education levels, and strengthening food security monitoring and early warning and information systems.
Since the establishment of the FAO Representation in the Republic of the Gambia in 1978, FAO has provided vital support to the development of agriculture and natural resource sectors in the country.
The Organization has implemented more than 120 projects, also facilitating policy formulation and the development of programmes and projects to improve production, productivity, food quality and national technical and institutional capacities. In 2014, the Gambia achieved the Millennium Development Goal hunger target – halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger in the country by 2015.
Building to capacity for a livestock census
FAO and the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) have joined hands in conducting a national livestock census. A TCP-supported intervention helped to strengthen the Department of Livestock’s staff capacity to conduct the census as well as paving the way for future censuses to be conducted on a regular basis.
The objective is to obtain an accurate assessment of the livestock sector’s contribution to the national economy (currently estimated to be about 30 percent of the agricultural GDP and approximately 10 percent of the national GDP). Census results will inform planning, policy formulation and legislation. They will also be useful for the newly established National Livestock Policy Hub; thereby enabling the country to capitalize on the sector’s full potential.
Supporting artisanal fisheries
Fisheries is one of the major sources of food, employment and income in the Gambia. It is therefore important to ensure sustainable management and utilization of fisheries resources with a view to enhancing the subsector’s contribution to the nutritional, economic and social wellbeing of the country’s growing population. To this end, FAO is working closely with the Department of Fisheries providing technical support. As part of FAO’s efforts in this sector, a comprehensive review of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector and the development of a Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector Strategy 20162020 was completed in 2016.
The strategy will guide the Government, private sector, civil society, and development partners in decision-making for policy and investment choices, while promoting the sustainable management and utilization of fisheries resources. This intervention is being complemented by a two-year TCP project implemented by the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department together with several Telefood projects, all designed to build small-scale fisheries capacity in the country. Through these initiatives, around 200 fisher folk are receiving training in improved fishing techniques, fish handling and processing skills, quality control and fish waste management.
Enhancing commercial poultry production
The Gambia spends huge sums of foreign currency on imports of poultry and poultry products. To counter this trend, in 2016, FAO and the Department of Livestock Services collaborated in strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers to address a critical production gap.
In 2014, the importation of poultry meat was 9 504 tonnes (for an estimated value of US$2 198 717). In the same year, 3 722 tonnes of eggs, valued at US$840 616, were imported. Local production of poultry meat and eggs was estimated to be 1 120 and 850 tonnes, respectively. A one-year FAO-funded TCP project has supported the establishment of 24 commercial poultry production schemes, including 19 broiler and five layer farms owned by poor and vulnerable households.
The intervention is envisaged to produce 65 tonnes of poultry meat and 605 000 eggs, helping to satisfy the domestic food demand, increase household incomes, improve nutrition and health, and reduce rural poverty as well as the national imports bill. This initiative is complemented by another successful example of collaboration between FAO, the Department of Livestock and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Launched in July 2016, a one-year project supported by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), is addressing the critical shortage in livestock feed. It is seeking to empower women entrepreneurs to establish small-scale feed mills equipped with grinders and mixers. The participants will receive training in feed production and feed mills management as well as in entrepreneurship.
Strengthening food and nutrition security through climate-smart agriculture
An EU-funded MDG 1c project launched in 2013 was another example of highly successful collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, the European Union, FAO and communities.
It directly supported more than 10 730 small-scale farmers (90 percent women) in four administrative regions of the Gambia, enabling them to increase their resilience to climate change and improve their food and nutrition security. Success factors include the provision of high-quality inputs, ploughing services and training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), including strengthening of participants’ skills in group management.
The project established eight community gardens, equipped with multi-purpose centres, solar systems and overhead tanks fitted with a water reticulation network and a Californian system to ensure an adequate water supply without generating greenhouse gases.
In a bid to promote diversification and resilience in agricultural production, improved cassava varieties are also grown in these gardens, which are delivering high-value marketable produce. Project participants have reported increased food security and incomes and stronger farmer-based organizations. Speaking to this paper Ebou Tambedou, a beneficiary of the project said yields have improved tremendously and thanked the FAO for this intervention.
With FAO’s intervention in agriculture and the eradication of hunger in the Gambia have been complemented by social protection programmes aimed at providing immediate relief to vulnerable population groups.
Adapting to climate change with climate smart irrigation
Agriculture has a large role to play in reducing poverty in The Gambia. 30 percent of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture. It is the second largest sector in the economy and employs about 44 percent of the country’s active work force. Smallholder farmers supply 90 percent of the domestically produced food in The Gambia. This is done mainly from rain-fed fields; only about 1 percent of the harvested land uses irrigation.
This high dependency on rainfall, weak policy environment, low levels of technology adoption, inadequate access to inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.), low private sector investment, under developed markets, poor infrastructure and inadequate energy supply are the main factors that result in low agricultural productivity in The Gambia.
Particularly in the uplands, production systems of grains and groundnuts, the country’s main products, are heavily affected by the inadequate and erratic distribution of rainfall. Poverty rates are also highest in the rural groundnut-producing areas primarily because of small or variable yields in this sector.
This untapped potential of irrigation combined with a changing climate means that farmers’ livelihoods are increasingly vulnerable and rural communities are more susceptible to poverty and food insecurity.