In the Gambia
Despite experiencing a period of societal progression, The Gambia remains exceptionally poor, with a fragile state and one of the highest per capita rates of youth migration from the country. This is significant because it means the country struggles to retain its most active working population.
Within The Gambia, agriculture remains critical to the livelihoods of the poor. However, in recent years, this vital source of production has become significantly more fragile, with seasons becoming less predictable and the rise of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts having disastrous impacts for these communities. With more than 75 per cent of the population reliant on growing their own food to survive, the impacts of these events can be catastrophic.
Full name: The Gambia
Population: 2.5 million (World Bank, 2023)
Capital: BanjulArea: 10,689 SQ KM
Major languages: English (official language), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula and various other indigenous languages
Major religions: Predominantly Muslim with a small Christian population.
In response, we work with farmers within The Gambia to help improve the stability of their income and earn a decent living for themselves and their families. We help by:
- Improving farming practices
- Improving access to safe, clean water
- Encouraging access to new markets for fresh local produce
- Promoting farming as a business and helping them develop sustainable value chains
- Nurturing new initiatives such as the promotion of biofortified crops (crops which significantly improve the concentration of particular nutrients) and nutritional health change through a network of mothers’ clubs and promoting market price information services
United Purpose, which merged with Self Help Africa in 2021, pioneered the development of farmer-run rice irrigation and enabled people to have their voices heard by building the capacity of civil society and women’s federations.
We are now committed to working with a wide range of local partners to increase the nation’s resilience and capacity to respond to disasters, with the shared goal of lifting people out of poverty.
The Gambia projects
Transforming access to markets
The ‘Transforming access to markets’ project (or TAM, for short) facilitates access to markets for women and young farmers by improving their access to market information and providing training on agriculture and business knowledge.
The aim is to arm women and young people with the knowledge and resources that they need to make more informed decisions about their businesses and establish more sustainable agricultural livelihoods.
TAM provides them with technical support, training, resources and mentoring, and builds the capacity of civil society to promote farming as a business.
Create Better livelihoods for supply chain workers project
The Waitrose Foundation aims to improve the living and working conditions of employees and their families in The Gambia, creating stronger communities and sustainable supply chains for Waitrose and their supply partners.
As part of the ‘Create Better Livelihoods for Supply Chain EE’s’, we are working with four farms in Senegal and The Gambia – Radville (Gambia), West African Farms (WAF), Society of Vegetable Cultures (SCL), and Safina.
This work includes improving access to basic social services, such as lighting and education, for Waitrose workers and their families. We are also providing solar lights in worker communities and improving the quality of and access to education through better infrastructure; training; water, sanitation and hygiene education for children; and replanting trees in local areas to improve the environment.
Water Point Rehabilitation Project (CO2 Balance)
While 90 per cent of The Gambia’s population have access to improved water sources, only 34 per cent of households are using safely managed drinking water services. At least 88 broken water boreholes have been identified country-wide, so our project is supporting their repair. To date, Self Help Africa has reached over 90% of the boreholes targeted by the project and these are now functioning after conducting repairs.
We have contracted The Gambia’s Department of Water Resources to conduct water quality tests and chlorination in all of the repaired wells, and to provide communities with advice on reducing the risk of water contamination. We are also supporting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committees to manage the use of the repaired facilities. Information about preventing the transmission of illnesses and viruses, including COVID-19, is embedded in all training.
Strengthening marketing federations and their apex Sosolaso through capacity building support
In the Gambia more than 70 per cent of food production is carried out by women farmers. However, they face numerous challenges – including a lack of access to, control and ownership of land and other natural resources; inadequate access to financial resources to invest in their farms; and exploitation, as they’re often not paid a fair or market-driven price for their products. Having little influence on price changes and poor storage access means they often have to sell at low prices or risk losing their produce.
To improve farming, and protect women farmers’ rights they need to be mobilised, supported to strengthen their existing collective structure, and develop skills to manage those structures for the benefit of their members.
This GIZ-funded project seeks to strengthen the capacities of six women-led marketing federations through institutional development, the establishment of good governance and leadership systems to manage participating National Association of Vegetable Growers Cooperatives, and training of farmers on agricultural productivity and advocacy strategies.
Market Information Systems (MIS)
Self Help Africa has more than 20 years of experience in the horticulture sector in The Gambia. This experience has shown that women farmers’ only access to market prices is through middle-men, or by travelling to the markets. Most of these women live in remote areas where road conditions are bad, this makes travelling to markets challenging.
Due to their constraints in mobility, and the lack of knowledge of actual market prices, the farmers must usually rely on middlemen for market prices, and this makes it hard for them to negotiate fair prices for their produce.
To address this market gap, we have implemented an information system that provides weekly updated market prices of vegetables to these farmers. This system equips women farmers with accurate and up-to-date information, enabling them to make informed decisions, such as which market to sell their produce and at what price. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Resilience of Organizations for the Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ROOTS) and United Purpose (UP) have agreed to expand the current system.
Integrated climate-adaptation and community resilience-building
Many rural and coastal communities in The Gambia make a living through fishing, agroforestry and agriculture. These livelihoods are under threat, owing to human activity which has negatively impacted on the natural environment here.
In addition, low-lying coastal areas in the Gambia are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the future. These will include rising sea levels, increased saline intrusion to surrounding land, and flooding.
Mangrove forests will play an important role in minimising these effects, and therefore in supporting community adaptation. The integrated climate-adaptation and community resilience-building project, funded by Irish Aid, will support coastal restoration through the replanting of mangroves, the protection of existing and restored mangrove forests, and the development and implementation of natural resource management plans.
This project also aims to support these communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change, by working with women and young people to enhance food security and incomes through sustainable oyster harvesting and processing, waste management and vegetable production.
The West Africa Competitiveness Programme – WACOMP
Objective: Empowering civil society organisations to mobilise citizen actions towards green economy and environment sustainability.
The Gambia produces only half of the food that it needs and is heavily dependent on food imports (World Food Programme). Slow agricultural growth and weak food production systems contribute to high levels of food insecurity.
The Gambian component of this EU-funded, West Africa project is being implemented by the United Nations for Industrial Development and Self Help Africa/United Purpose. Our activities are focused on strengthening the competitiveness of The Gambia by improving the onion value chain.
The aim is for farmers to be able to grow onions and other vegetables year-round to reduce importation, and link subsistence farmers to markets. We are working to strengthen farmer-based associations and relevant service providers. We are also reinforcing technical, business and entrepreneurial services, and ensuring they are available to smallholders and group producers, with a special focus on women producers.
TO CONTACT US ABOUT OUR WORK IN the Gambia:
Country Director: Tim Kellow
Address: 55 Kairaba Avenue, 2nd Floor Modern Stationery Building, Fajara P.O.
Box 2164, Serrekunda, The Gambia.
Phone number: +220-4396071 +220-4396072