STOCKBRIDGE, Georgia — One of Africa’s smallest countries, the Gambia is also one of Africa’s poorest countries. The United Nations Development Programme’s 2013 Human Development Index ranked the country 165th out of 187 countries. In 2014, calculations revealed that more than 60 percent of the overall population lives in poverty, while a little under half of the population live in poverty conditions.
Poverty in The Gambia is mainly caused by a lack of economic diversity. Over half of all Gambians depend on agriculture to bring money and food to the table, but harsh weather conditions leave their farming fates unpredictable. When rainfall is at it highest, the Gambia falls into a “hunger season.”
Here are some of the things that still contribute to the poverty in The Gambia:
- Low and decreasing soil fertility
- Low agricultural and labor productivity.
- Poor access to land and water and inefficient management of resources when available.
- Irregular rains that frequently cause crop losses.
- Poorly functioning input and output markets.
- Food insecurity due to insufficient income from the farming industry.
- Large fraction of unemployed or underemployed young people in rural areas.
- High rates of migration.
The Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy, or ANRP, was approved at The Gambia’s first ever, national farmers’ conference, revealing that progress has been made. This policy has set objectives to improve nutrition security throughout the country, to commercialize agriculture in order to make it competitive and efficient, to improve institutions that provide relief and to manage natural resources better.
Also, since poverty in The Gambia is mostly a result of a undiversified economy that relies heavily on agriculture, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, takes special interest in the country. The IFAD has financed 10 programs in the Gambia since 1982, but has recently shifted its focus to two programs: the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Project (Nema—meaning prosperity) and the Livestock Horticulture Development Project.
Nema’s goal is to reduce poverty among rural women and young people through improved productivity based on sustainable land and water management practices. The program helps those who have limited productivity and economic carrying capacity of farm land, as well as those who produce crops with little market value.
The Livestock Horticulture Development Project is a project aimed to help small-scale rural producers increase their incomes by improving their yield and quantities of their crops. By offering contracts and creating standards to reach, the program promotes the growth of quality crops.
The Gambia’s fragile economic system is the main cause of poverty in the Gambia. Organizations like the IDAF are helping to provide assistance in creating an economy that is able to grow and adapt to the unchanging threat of the weather.
– Erik Nelson