March 11, 2024

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved an additional $16.1 million for Gambia to help bolster the west African country’s agricultural system and to support a food security programme that has been in place in partnership with AfDB since August 2021.

At the launch an initial $16 million was granted as part of the bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Project (GASFP). This was supplemented by $1.37 million in counterpart funding from Gambia’s government.

GASFP is a multilateral financing platform dedicated to enhancing the incomes and food security of impoverished communities in many African developing countries and it is this aspect that has led to the latest extra funding round.

In Gambia’s specific case, the project is targeting vulnerable households in five administrative regions – Central River, Upper River, North Bank, Lower River, and West Coast – by strengthening the sustainable Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Programme.

This will be achieved by increasing climate-resilient food production, improving post-harvest management, identifying nutrient-rich food chains; and promoting smallholder farmers’ access to the HGSF.

Support for climate-resistant crops

To get the production of climate-resistant local food products off the ground in these five regions, the project will expand cultivation areas for plant crops, upland crops such as groundnuts, maize, millet, cowpea and findi – and rice. The areas being cultivated will increase from 100 hectares to 150 hectares for plant crops, 1,500-3,000 hectares for upland crops, and 3,000-4,500 hectares for rice.

The African Development Bank's five project areas in Gambia.
The African Development Bank’s five project areas in Gambia.

With the new funding, productivity is expected to rise, with rice yields increasing from 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) and maize harvests reaching 2.0 t/ha from 1.8. The bank estimates that the number of small-scale farmers benefiting directly from the project will increase from 10,000 to 18,000. Of these, at least 50% are young people (though the banks did not specify age bands), and 52% are women.

AfDB Group, headquartered in Abidjan in Ivory Coast and on the ground in 41 African countries, said in a statement: “Through initiatives focusing on social security, improving nutrition, and promoting gender equality, the project will raise the number of school pupils who receive nutritious meals from 131,900 to 203,900 over five years, with girls constituting 52% of them. Deworming supplements will be added to complement food to maintain good health and nutrition.”

Making headway…

Progress has been promising since 2021 based on a report highlighting some of the initial project successes. It claims that, in total, there have been almost 64,000 beneficiaries, which is 40% of the target, and that production outcomes “have been substantial”.

These include 14,000 tonnes of poultry meat, more than 964,000 tonnes of vegetables, and 167,450 eggs. Combined they have generated an estimated income value of $750,000 for smallholder farmers. The project has also provided nutritious daily meals to 39,400 school children (56% girls) through its support for the HGSF programme. It has also led to an uptake in primary school enrolments in the project intervention areas.

In 2017, the World Bank and AfDB prepared a joint fragility, risk and resilience assessment for Gambia. A later 2021 assessment indicated that the country’s key drivers of fragility remained largely unchanged compared to 2017 and grouped them as follows:

  • authoritarianism
  • weak public institutions
  • political instability
  • unsustainable macro-fiscal management which increased the Gambian economy’s sensitivity to external shocks
  • food insecurity, and
  • susceptibility to environmental damage and degradation.

… but food insecurity hasn’t gone away

Gambia’s development challenges are directly linked to the points above but AfDB says that the country’s fragility “stands out as an outlier in many common global indices”. For example, in the Fragile States Index, measured by the Fund For Peace, Gambia’s position had steadily worsened in recent years, moving from 80.6 in 2010 to 89.4 in 2017 (the closer to 120, the more fragile the state).

African Development Bank Group logo
The African Development Bank Group is on the ground in 41 African countries.

By 2023, however, some improvements had been made, helped by AfDB’s support. Gambia’s score dropped convincingly to 76.1. Despite the gains, through farming improvements, the country is characterized by pervasive poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition and vulnerability of households to climate shocks.

More evidence that Gambia will need long-term food and farming assistance is the country’s gross domestic product per capita. In 2017 it stood at $483, which is a very low level, even compared to other Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) countries. By 2023, the figure had reached $840 whereas in neighbouring Senegal, it was almost double at $1,600 (source: Worldometer).

[Lead image courtesy of Annie Spratt/Unsplash.]

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