Food program initiatives in The Gambia
One of Africa’s smallest countries, The Gambia is plagued by desertification, political corruption and rampant poverty. But thanks to the contributions of numerous agencies, the government has been able to make rapid advancements, with a clear-cut, long-term plan for food program initiatives in The Gambia. Providing increased support in the agricultural sector and expanding resources will benefit both the private and public sector, leading to economic prosperity.

According to the CIA World Factbook, crop failures caused by droughts between 2011 and 2013 have increased poverty, food shortages and malnutrition. Furthermore, The Gambia has one of the highest infant mortality rates in West Africa. Another issue that impedes The Gambia’s agricultural growth is climate change, which has hindered poverty alleviation.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization launched the “Improving Food Security and Nutrition in the Gambia, Through Food Fortification” project on September 262017. Its purpose is to improve education about nutrition and increase micronutrients, as well as allocate funding towards the following projects:

  • Support for household incomes
  • Agricultural production
  • Food diversification
  • Treating acute malnutrition
  • Promotion of optimal care practices

Vice President Fatoumata Jallow-Tambang, who launched the project, says that these food program initiatives will pave the way for increased capabilities in the public and private sector. She claimed that such projects will increase essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc and folic acid among others. Increasing micronutrient deficiency control has been a core principle of food program initiatives in The Gambia. The government has taken many steps to do so, which include revising a 2006 food fortification and salt iodization regulation that was enacted to provide food fortification.

Other food program initiatives in The Gambia that have steadily increased awareness at a local level include the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative. The operation is a four-year project funded by the European Union, the FAO and The Gambia. It aims to tackle poverty by “ending hunger, improving resilience to climate change and using a landscape approach.” Furthermore, the project targets rural farmers, a pivotal component of controlling land degradation and deforestation. The initiative also serves to empower local communities by establishing “community woodlots, community managed forests and promoting joint forest park management,” according to Regional Forestry Officer Ebou Janha.

The Gambia struggles with illiteracy, with more than half of the country unable to read or write. This new approach tackles the importance of reaching out to students in the classroom to educate them on how to properly manage natural resources and to actively become engaged in their communities. One additional component includes promoting environmental management.

Patta Kanyi, Focal Person at the Agency for the Development of Women and Children emphasized the importance of educating local communities on the proper usage of cooking stoves to reduce the effects of climate change and lessen the need for wood.

Such practices make The Gambia’s objective of eradicating poverty more attainable. The efforts being made to combat such hardships are truly remarkable. By building more robust communities through partnerships with inter-governmental organizations and the private sector, The Gambia has become a trading partner with developed countries. The attempt to involve rural farmers in forest management will be crucial for maintaining a sustainable environment. The food program initiatives in The Gambia demonstrate the objectives this country has in eradicating poverty for good.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in The Gambia Needs ImprovedA small country that is surrounded by Senegal, The Gambia has a population of just under two million people and the country’s main export is peanuts. Although The Gambia has maintained relative stability over the past few years, the country is struggling with another area, namely, infrastructure. 

In a country with over 1600 miles of roads, only 35 percent of the roads have been paved. Roads in the capital Banjul have been maintained, but outside the city, roads are often blocked due to flooding or other weather-related circumstances. In addition, electricity is not well developed and petroleum is imported as there is limited energy resources from inside the country. Some new steps have been taken in terms of greener and more reliable energy in The Gambia. Wind energy is a possibility in one town, which has been given a specific license.

Another important aspect about The Gambia is that the Gambia River runs through most of the country, so the infrastructure surrounding water travel must continue improving. The Port in Banjul is in great condition to work with different industries and more can possibly be done to open additional major ports or stops along the river for trade and industry.

Transportation by land and water has been seen by the government as critical for the country to function. Working on creating better roads and waterways will benefit infrastructure in The Gambia. River ports need to be updated as does the port in Banjul. Just because the port is operational, it does not mean that it cannot be improved.

In the last decade, technological infrastructure in The Gambia has been expanding quite rapidly. There are more telephone lines, and cellular usage is up although it has been challenging to coordinate. Furthermore,  enhancing Internet communication is a possible next step as almost everyone in The Gambia gets their news from the radio.

Infrastructure in The Gambia is not perfect, but it is moving forward. Once it improves in these areas of transportation, energy, and telecommunication, the country will be on its way to bettering life for its citizens, as well as its economy and environment.

– Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr

Education in The Gambia Benefits From UNICEF's EffortsUNICEF is working in the Gambia to improve its education in four different areas. These areas cover enrolment, performance, gender disparities, as well as rural and urban disparities.

Enrollment

As of 2016, the enrollment rate in the Gambia stood at 93 percent, which is a great improvement compared to 81 percent in 2011. Through UNICEF’s tireless efforts, Gambians drastically increased the number of children gaining an education in only five years. Furthermore, the sub-Saharan average typically lands at only 69 percent of children enrolled in primary education.

Between 2004 and 2015, UNICEF encouraged the implementation of the Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which led to a drastic improvement in the accessibility of basic education. EFA ensures that education meets the needs of children globally, allowing girls and those in rural areas to receive equal access to quality education. The policies introduced, along with other advocacy events, pushed for the building and opening of four new schools in The Gambia, thus providing greater accessibility and playing a large role in the increased enrolment.

Performance

UNICEF introduced new teaching methods to Gambian schools that utilize a child-centered approach. The approaches follow the EFA goals to meet the educational needs of every child. As a result, over 200 teachers received training regarding the new methods. In 2014, 88 percent of teachers became fully qualified to give students a quality education in The Gambia.

According to the National Assessment Test, these methodologies improved students’ performance in English, which rose 5 percent in only two years. Another contribution of this is the development of the Program for Improved Quality Standards in Schools (PIQSS), which strictly focuses on students receiving an education of greater value.

Gender Disparities

Furthermore, these new teaching methods bridged the gap between boys and girls. The National Assessment Test also provides proof that girls’ performance compares almost equally to the performance of boys in both English and Mathematics.

Urban versus Rural

There is also a disparity between the education in urban versus rural areas of The Gambia. In rural communities, there were around 10,452 children not attending school because of reasons such as limited access. The rural region, also known as the Central River Region, had a gross enrollment rate (GER) of 63 percent in 2014, decreasing the Gambia’s overall GER.

However, UNICEF’s multiple efforts contributed to the Central River Region’s GER increasing by seven percent, along with the urban area’s four percent increase. The main contribution is made in the rural region is by the PIQSS by providing 90 different schools with quality materials and bringing educational access to students.

UNICEF’s multiple efforts and policies enabled education in the Gambia to benefit in these four separate areas. Hopefully, UNICEF continues enforcing these policies and advocacy events to bring Gambians an education-centered society.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in GambiaLocated on the western side of Africa is Gambia, the smallest country within the African continent. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Gambia has gained in popularity among tourists around the world. However, the low water quality in Gambia must be improved.

In spite of being the smallest country in Africa, it is a greatly populated one, with a population close to two million citizens. Thus, the combination of a small territory with a lot of people is a major cause of poverty in the Gambia. Within the 187 countries that constitute Africa, Gambia is the 165th most impoverished with a GDP per capita of $1,664.

Along with general poverty, the main problems the country faces relate to the environment. Fifty-seven percent of citizens live in the urban areas of Gambia; the percentage populates rural areas where one-third of the population is poor.

The lack of agricultural resources and seeds, amongst others, are why rural areas regularly face poverty. However, the problem of water quality in Gambia stands out due to its negative impact.

Pollution results in contaminated water, which affects the species and individuals who consume it. Unfortunately, Gambia lacks the sanitation facilities necessary to properly filter water for consumption. Furthermore, harmful compounds can be transmitted by polluted water, which increases the possibility of contracting a dangerous disease or developing further health issues.

The most prevalent waterborne disease in Gambia is diarrhea, the leading cause of death among children under five. Hepatitis A and typhoid fever are also predominant waterborne diseases as well as schistosomiasis.

Contaminated water not only affects those who drink it but can also have harmful effects if used for farming or cooking. It is estimated that 53 percent of Gambia’s population that reside in rural areas have access to clean water.

Needless to say, multiple organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and Childfund International are fighting every day to be able to solve this important and concerning matter.

Identifying the cause of the issue and taking action by delivering water provisions, creating water filters and more, are initiatives that nonprofit organizations are working towards. The water quality in Gambia has already received some help and will get better in a near future.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Pixabay

GambiaThe Republic of Gambia is a country on the North Atlantic coast of West Africa and is the smallest country on the African mainland. It is classified as a low-income, food-deficit country, with about one-tenth of its population being food insecure and almost one in three Gambians vulnerable to food insecurity. As of 2013, 57 percent of the population lived in urban areas where over one-third of residents are estimated to be living in sub-standard conditions.

The main cause of hunger in Gambia is the unpredictability of the crop harvests. Harvests have shrunk in recent years, with food prices rising considerably since 2008. One of the factors that heavily affects the crop harvest is Gambia’s climate, which is characterized by short rainy seasons. As well as being under-resourced and unpredictable, the agriculture in Gambia is heavily affected by climate change, with extreme weather events and rising sea levels driving down the output even further.

A Gambian woman, Sarjo Dibba, one of two wives to a local groundnut farmer who lives in the village of Jalangfarri, told ActionAid, “The children are crying and we can only share two cups of rice between all of us. Last year we had three meals a day, and now we only cook lunch, while saving half of it for dinner. On some days, when the money from charcoal is not good, I don’t eat anything.”

The family harvests groundnut, millet and cassava, saving the millet for food and using the money generated from the groundnut and cassava harvests to pay for rice, cooking oil and other essential food items. In good years, the food supply from the harvest will be enough to last them until the next season’s harvest, with the last two months necessitating the use of basic rationing, typically referred to as “the hunger season.”

After coming off a particularly poor rainy season and harvest, Sarjo’s husband has resorted to making charcoal, which has been long banned in Gambia due to rampant deforestation. He also has begun fetching firewood in hopes of making money for his family anyway he can.

So, how can we help solve the issue of hunger in Gambia?

It is not an easy solution, but there are several steps being taken to combat extreme poverty and hunger in Gambia. One method is The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Food for Education, which is a program that provides school meals to children in Gambia. There are also things that can be done at home, such as sending WFP cash contributions directed toward supporting Food for Education. Additionally, lobbying respective governments and authorities in support of WPF’s program is another great way to help.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

Help People in The GambiaAt the westernmost tip of Africa exists one of the smallest and poorest countries on the entire continent. The Gambia is a nation of just over two million people and roughly 75 percent of the population live in poverty. The 2011 U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) assessed The Gambia as ranking 168th out of 187 countries. The HDI ranks countries based on their level of human development as a society, averaging things like life expectancy, per capita income and birth rate to make projections.

The Gambia scored so poorly on the HDI for a variety of reasons, but one predominant contributor is poor conditions leading to lack of food and agriculture production. About 60 percent of The Gambia’s population depends on some sort of farming for survival. Despite the fact that The Gambia River runs clear across the middle of the country, only 16.7 percent of the country’s available land is arable. This, in conjunction with frequent and erratic rainfall make the life of a Gambian subsistence farmer an especially tough one. The peak rainy season runs through the duration of the summer, hence food production during this time is negligible. Families who depend on subsistence farming – that is, growing enough food to feed themselves – attempt desperately every year to stock their food supplies in anticipation of the rainy season.

The harsh reality of the situation is that the circumstances are not getting any better, weather patterns become more unpredictable by the year and the price of food in the Gambian economy continues to rise steadily. The combination of all of these factors has led to the emergence of a global need to help people in The Gambia. One particular charity organization, which makes strides to improve life for those in The Gambia, is Aid for Africa. Since its inception in 2004, Aid for Africa has worked to combine the efforts of nonprofit organizations working in Sub-Saharan Africa to help those in need. They have made an impact on the lives of impoverished Gambians by establishing “community based self-help programs,” which aim to provide people with the skills and resources they need to escape the cycle of poverty.

The quickest and most effective way to help people in The Gambia is to donate to a charity such as Aid for Africa or even other similar charities. As members of the international community, we have an obligation to help those in need, and now, more than ever, the people of The Gambia need our help to escape poverty.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in the GambiaGeographically engulfed within the western African country of Senegal lies The Gambia, a predominantly rural country with a population of roughly two million people. The country is largely dependent on agriculture, an industry that employs 75 percent of the population and accounts for a third of its GDP. Unfortunately food insecurity is prevalent and the region is becoming increasingly susceptible to harmful climate events: two inescapable factors that have become causes of poverty in the Gambia.

As of 2014, the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index ranked it the 172nd poorest country out of 186. While the causes of poverty in the Gambia are numerous, the two root problems are an overall lack of economic diversity as well as inadequate agricultural proficiency and productivity.

 

Main Causes of Poverty in the Gambia

 

Economic Diversity:
Solving the lack of economic diversity would require systematic changes within Gambian society to sufficiently address, but doing so would inherently solve many of the financial problems in the country. Currently, 20 percent of the country’s GDP comes from remittance inflows, and the only other industry that has any considerable stake in the economy is tourism. Due to its proximity to both the Atlantic coast and Europe, it is one of the most frequently visited countries in western Africa. While this industry has typically accounted for about 20 percent of the GDP, it has recently declined due to travel concerns caused by the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Agriculture:
Agricultural causes of poverty in the Gambia can be described as a symptom of the disease, because the failure to implement programs or institutions that would foster private sector growth has essentially forced the majority of the population to sustain themselves solely through agriculture. Despite this, crop yields and farming practices are typically insufficient. To make matters worse, there is a lack of access to land and water, the water available for agricultural use is often improperly managed, soil fertility is decreasing and inconsistent weather-related crop failures are a common occurrence.

Health Outcomes:
Other, less fundamental causes of poverty in the Gambia include a 45 percent illiteracy rate, a 1.7 percent adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS and an extremely high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Gambians have extremely poor access to proper healthcare; there were 1.1 hospital beds for every 1,000 Gambians in 2011. Among other things, there has been drastic population growth in combination with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and child labor is also common, with an estimated 25 percent of children ages 5-14 employed.

Unfortunately, things do not appear to be improving for either the Gambian government or its citizens in recent times. In 2016, substantial contraction of the GDP took place due to a border closure with the neighboring country of Senegal, leading to a budget deficit of -10.4 percent, low agricultural productivity, decreasing rates of tourism and a limited capacity for foreign trade.

Fortunately, elections also took place in 2016 and the newly elected president, Adama Barrow, has expressed his commitment to revamping economic policy as well as public policy as a whole. He has advocated for reducing the deficit, consolidating debt and reforming public institutions. While these are certainly long-term goals, they are changes desperately needed in order to improve the safety, well-being and hopes of future prosperity for the Gambian people in the years to come.

Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the GambiaCommon diseases in The Gambia all but summarize the maladies that come to mind when one thinks of impoverished African nations. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, several of the diseases that account for the most deaths are communicable – also known as infectious diseases.

Among the top causes of death are both lower respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. They hold the number one and two spots, respectively, for greatest quantity of lives taken. Also among the common diseases in The Gambia are diarrhoeal diseases, neonatal sepsis and malaria. These diseases are responsible for an even larger percentage of premature deaths in The Gambia. Among the top 10 most common causes of death in the small West African nation, eight out of 10 are communicable diseases, with lower respiratory infections and neonatal sepsis causing the most untimely deaths.

Common diseases in The Gambia were also looked at on a smaller, more grassroots scale in a paper from the US National Library of Medicine. The article explored the deaths caused by disease in the rural town of Farafenni. According to the article, death in the small town was “dominated by communicable diseases.” The study goes on to cite the two most dangerous causes of death as the mosquito-borne malaria and acute respiratory infections (ARI) or lower respiratory infections. As for children under the age of five, diarrhoeal diseases were a major contributor to childhood deaths.

However, the article also expresses a lot of good news. The results show that of the 3,203 deaths recorded, mortality at all ages declined from 15 out of every 1,000 people to 8 out of every 1,000 people, from 1998 to 2007. Children saw the greatest improvement in their overall survival rate, dropping from 27 out of every 1,000 people to a mere seven.

There are also significant scientific advances and programs being funded to combat illness in The Gambia. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) lists their largest financial investment in The Gambia as malaria-based studies. In particular, these studies explore severe cases of malaria in children as well as methods that could potentially curb the population of mosquitoes.

One scientific advancement with the ability to take on common diseases in The Gambia is a vaccine being implemented to fight against pneumococcal infections – diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 1.6 million people die every year from pneumococcal infections, 800,000 of which are children. The trial for this pneumococcal vaccine was the first in over 20 years to show a statistically significant reduction in child mortality.

Another scientific advancement that could help in the fight against diseases in The Gambia comes from the sequenced genome of a mosquito. With this genome sequence, scientists could potentially genetically alter the species responsible for the spread of diseases like the dengue fever and yellow fever to make them incapable of carrying the disease.

With mortality rates from certain communicable diseases already declining as well as these promising scientific developments currently being made, the future of common diseases in The Gambia is looking brighter than ever.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in GambiaHuman rights in Gambia remain limited. The small West African country struggles to provide its citizens with freedom of expression. Meanwhile, politically driven police brutality and arbitrary arrests continue.

In April 2016, Gambian citizens were beaten with batons and exposed to tear gas while protesting the death of Solo Sandeng, who died at the hands of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) while in custody. Nineteen of those protesters faced three years imprisonment. Forty more people were arrested while protesting the trial of the 19 sentenced, and 14 of those 40 went on trial near the end of 2016.

Gambians were reportedly beaten and tortured, and others died due to insufficient medical care while in custody. The president admitted that people die in custody regularly. Political and religious leaders are arrested and abducted, including leaders of the United Democratic Party (UDP), which opposes the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and President Yahya Jammeh.

Anyone who speaks against the government runs the risk of retaliation, representing a huge denial of human rights in Gambia. In fact, many journalists avoid strong criticism of the government for fear of arrest or death, and many have left the country out of fear.

The government would not allow the U.N. or outside organizations to record prison conditions, but some NGOs report poor air flow and pest problems. Furthermore, many members of the UDP were held in solitary confinement.

A separate, but important issue for human rights in Gambia is human trafficking. Women and children continue to be sold into sex and domestic slavery, and yet the government has not taken adequate action to resolve this.
Although human rights in Gambia desperately need improvement, major gains in women’s rights were made recently. Gambia made child marriage illegal in July 2016. Previously, “according to the U.N., 40 percent of women aged 20 to 49 in Gambia were married before the age of 18, while 16 percent married before they turned 15.”

Gambian women also suffered significantly from female genital mutilation. However, in late 2015, legislation passed to make this illegal as well.

The victor of the 2016 presidential election, Adama Barrow, shows promise for progressing toward less corruption and stronger human rights in Gambia. Gambia must have fair and lawful leadership in order to leave behind its history of injustice.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Google


The Gambia is a West African nation that shares most of its borders with Senegal. Despite some political instability during the past presidential election, the Gambia has remained relatively peaceful and houses a substantial number of refugees from surrounding regions. In fact, the Gambia plays a key role in alleviating the West African refugee crisis. The following are 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia.

10 Facts About Refugees Living in the Gambia

  1. The Gambia is considered one of the most refugee-friendly countries in West Africa. This can be primarily attributed to the nation’s status as a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which guarantees refugees of certain nationalities the right to work within the Gambia. Additionally, it has upheld the OAU convention held by the UN Refugee Agency in 1969, which outlined policies and protocols regarding the protection of West African refugees.
  2. According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 12,000 refugees living in the Gambia. However, the agency notes that other sources place the number between 10,000 and 30,000, as many are undocumented.
  3. The Gambia is an attractive option for English-speaking refugees, as the country maintains its colonial language as the official language.
  4. The Gambia was a major ally for Senegalese in the Casamance region of Senegal displaced by the civil war, which started in 1982 and only recently resolved in 2014. The Bambali refugee camp has accommodated hundreds of Senegalese during this period.
  5. During the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis, the Gambia offered asylum to all Southeast Asian migrants, fulfilling the “sacred duty” to help fellow Muslims.
  6. The majority of refugees living in the Gambia come from Sierra Leone, fleeing the country’s recent civil conflict. In 2003, the Gambia initiated a voluntary repatriation program for Sierra Leoneans to return home, aiding the transition for thousands of refugees.
  7. Undocumented urban refugees make up the majority of those living in the Gambia. One estimate places 10,000 living in the capital of Banjul alone.
  8. Roughly four out of 10 Gambian refugees depend on remittances from relatives or family members abroad. Refugees require a residence permit to earn money in the Gambia. However, many refugees do not have one or are still in the application process.
  9. The Gambian Food and Nutrition Association (GFNA) donated money to Senegalese refugees in 2015 with the intention of “sustaining livelihood” and “supporting self-reliance at the household level.” The GFNA has also provided food in refugee camps.
  10. The UN Refugee Agency reported that Gambian host communities were generally very accepting of refugees seeking asylum. Due to the strong culture of hospitality, integration is a good option for refugees.

Though only 10,000 square kilometers in size, the Gambia’s open policy towards migrants has made a substantial impact in helping refugees. These 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia indicate that the nation will continue to uphold their open policy towards West African refugees in the years to come.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr