Food security: a development challenge for Gambia

Food security: a development challenge for Gambia

Gambia is mainland Africa’s smallest country and it is highly dependant on food imports for its survival. At least 60 percent of its stable food needs are imported.

Food prices are on the rise and many households in The Gambia are vulnerable. These households live below the global poverty line putting more than 136,814 Gambians at risk of food insecurity.

Gambian families are seriously affected even when small shocks occur like the refusal of ousted President Yahya Jammeh to cede power.

It has put the number of people at risk at 280,000 if urgent needs are not addressed, according to United Purpose Executive Director Ousman Jammeh of the EU funded Bio-fortification Project.

The relatively undiversified economy makes The Gambia
highly vulnerable to external shocks which put the country’s food security at risk.

The government is devising effective and well-targeted strategies to minimize the impact of shocks and strengthen resilience. Foreign exchange earnings are based primarily on
groundnut exports, tourism, and remittances.

The country ranked 172nd of the 188 countries and territories in the 2015 UNDP Human Development Report. There is a strong correlation between food insecurity and poverty.

More than 50 percent of Gambian households eat cereals, vegetables, meat, and sugar daily. Cereals, especially rice are the most frequently consumed food, with 99 percent of the households responding that they eat it seven days a week.

The Gambia has experienced numerous challenges from droughts and a severe crop failure that affect food production to successive flash floods.

However, as domestic production even in a good year is not sufficient to cover consumption requirements, the country depends on food imports to make up for the gap which is why international price trends are usually felt in local markets.

Despite efforts to diversify The Gambian economy, agriculture still makes up about one-third of the GDP while subsistence agricultural activities provide income and livelihood for about 26 percent of the population.

Agricultural production in The Gambia remains principally rain-fed and non-mechanized limiting the size of land that a typical agricultural family can cultivate to less than 3 hectares for both household subsistence and income generation purposes.

High vulnerability to erratic rainfall, production variability, and low yields seriously reduced the income derivable from these activities.

According to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, only 19 percent of the total rice demands of 219,960 metric tonnes are produced in the country.

Over the last five years, the trends in cereal production have been fluctuating as the country faced a series of droughts and floods including the 2011/2012 crop failure that led to the declaration of emergency by the government of The Gambia.

Over the past five years, coarse grains have accounted for over 70 percent of total cereal production with millet being the primary crop produced.

Rice, however, remains the preferred staple food in The Gambia and therefore considered as the most critical crop that determines Gambia’s food self-sufficiency. Over the past decades, the government of The Gambia had embarked on several initiatives to boost rice production in the country.

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