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Gambia’s Solar Park
In 2019, the Gambian government announced that it would construct a solar park, the first 150 MWH utility-scale park in the nation. Apart from the government’s greater initiative to improve the Gambia’s energy reliability and affordability, the government plans to launch the solar park in two phases: an 80 MWH unit set for 2021 and a 70 MWH unit set for 2025.

The Background

Prior to national elections in 2016, the Gambian government struggled with a decreasing GDP, poor macroeconomic performance and high liabilities from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and other state-owned enterprises. As cited in a 2018 World Bank report, the governing bodies of SOE’s such as NAWEC were highly inefficient and caused internal dysfunction under President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership. The government’s inconsistent budget support to NAWEC resulted in a “fiscal drain on public resources” and inadequate energy supply.

Therefore, as apart of the region’s master plan to increase energy availability to the public, the current Gambian administration will conduct a study measuring the feasibility of implementing a 150 MWH solar park. The park will connect to a substation in Soma, The Gambia, which is a grid infrastructure that should increase electricity access in the nation by 60 percent. The feasibility study will have three primary objectives:

  1. To select the land for the solar park.
  2. To finalize solar power station details.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Dispatch Center.

The Process

In selecting land for The Gambia’s solar park, consultants will choose a land size of around 250 Hectares within a 20 km perimeter from the Soma substation. They will conduct studies that measure the potential constraint to connect the substation to the park. Once consultants choose an ideal site, they will proceed to finalize aspects of the power station. The power station will produce shifts in solar energy for two to three hours toward the peak of each evening. Through a detailed study, consultants will need to confirm the phases required for the installation of the park and proceed to undertake a diagnosis for the creation of a dispatch center. Through a diagnosis, consultants will be able to construct an “evaluation of required investments in capacity building (research, training), and modernization of the network (hardware equipment, software, smart grid technology, etc.).”

The government plans to construct the park not only to provide further electricity to The Gambia’s citizens but to also reduce the electricity costs for SOEs and the government. The government plans to remove the system of auction organized with public-private partnerships (private banks, etc.) as a means to reduce the cost of electricity for SOEs and citizens.

As the first of its kind, The Gambia’s solar park will increase Gambians’ access to electricity by 25 percent. The park will serve as one of the administration’s first steps in transforming the nation into a hub for sustainable energy.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in The Gambia
The Gambia is a small West African country that people know for its diverse ecosystems around the Gambia River. It is the smallest country within mainland Africa and farming, fishing and tourism drive its economy. The Gambia has a life expectancy of 65 years which is relatively low when considering that the global average life expectancy is 72 years. The Gambia also faces problems associated with poverty that can have serious effects on population and life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in The Gambia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in The Gambia

  1. HIV/AIDS – Twenty-one thousand people are currently living with HIV or AIDS in The Gambia with only 30 percent seeking treatment. Since 2010, The Gambia has been working towards lowering the rate of transmission between mothers and children. With the establishment of the National AIDS Control Programme, HIV infections have decreased by 3 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 23 percent.
  2. Lack of Health Care Providers – The Gambia faces a lack of health care providers. According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, The Gambia had only 156 physicians. The World Health Organization recommends two doctors for every 10,000 people, whereas The Gambia only has one doctor for every 10,000. The International Organization for Migration, in partnership with the World Health Organization, is attempting to increase the amount of health care providers through its program, Migration for Development in Africa.
  3. Infant Mortality Rate – The infant mortality rate in The Gambia is at 58 deaths per 1,000 live births, severely affecting the life expectancy in The Gambia. Malaria is the cause for 4 percent of infant deaths under the age of 1, and 25 percent between the ages of 1 and 4. The National Malaria Control Programme launched in 2014 and prevents 75 percent of all malaria and severe malaria episodes.
  4. Maternal Mortality Rate – The maternal mortality rate in The Gambia is 706 deaths per 100,000 live births. The major cause behind maternal mortality is a lack of prompt response to emergencies combined with disorganized health care. Improving accessibility is necessary for preventing maternal deaths.
  5. Income – The average gross salary is $0.57 per hour with 75 percent of the labor force working in agriculture. Longterm challenges that the economy of The Gambia faces include an undiversified economy, limited access to resources and high population growth.
  6. Malnutrition – Approximately 11 percent of the country is chronically food insecure and 21 percent of children under 5 are malnourished which impacts the life expectancy in The Gambia. Thirty percent of the population do not have proper nourishment–a number that has increased over the past decade. The Gambia relies heavily on imports of food staples along with low agricultural production has made it easy to become food deficient. UNICEF has begun treating cases of malnutrition through preventative and curative services.
  7. Water – Only 32 percent of households have access to clean water with unprotected wells being more common in rural areas. With 4 percent of the rural population practicing open defecation, water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases account for 20 percent of under-5 deaths. Water for Africa has begun to send aid to The Gambia in the form of building wells.
  8. Education – The Gambia sends its children to six years of primary school and three years of upper basic education, but there are still gaps in education. With aid from the United States and the World Bank, The Gambia launched its Education Sector Support Program to promote early childhood development and boost access to basic education. The project also provides for the building of 40 schools in remote areas.
  9. Malaria Endemic – Peak season for malaria is during the rainy season from June to October. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works to provide relief to malaria outbreaks in The Gambia with cases that have declined by 50 percent from 2011 to 2016. The CRS works by distributing bed nets and focusing its aid on children under 5 and pregnant women.
  10. Employment – Farming employs at least 70 percent of the population. Farmers are reliant on rain-fed agriculture. Most cannot afford improved seeds and fertilizers. Between 2011 and 2013, poverty, food shortages and malnutrition have increased due to crop failures that droughts caused.

Despite problems people associate with agriculture, income and health, life expectancy in The Gambia is rising while infant and maternal mortality rates are declining.

– Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in The Gambia
The Gambia is not only the smallest country in mainland Africa, but it also continues to be among the poorest. Today, 48 percent of its population of 2.1 million live below the poverty line. One of the many manifestations of the country’s high poverty rate is the prevalence of child labor. These 10 facts about child labor in The Gambia provide a deeper background on the issue.

10 Facts About Child Labor in The Gambia

  1. The Gambia has a young population. Approximately 63 percent of Gambians are under the age of 25, and the median age is 17. About 95 percent of child laborers work in the agriculture sector, but in the capital city, Banjul, it is common to see children under 14 begging, washing cars, selling food, selling newspapers and repairing bicycles. Many of these children are orphans or lack parental care, but others have parents who sent them to trade in the street. Even though 20 percent of children in The Gambia are employed today, this represents a significant improvement from 36 percent in 2013.

  2. Child labor deprives the population of higher education. Gambian law makes the first six years of primary school free and mandatory, and the primary school completion rate is at 70 percent. In 2017, the government participated in the READ (Results for Education Achievement and Development) project funded by the World Bank which improved the quality of basic education in Gambian schools. However, most child laborers between ages 5 and 14 both work and attend school, which hinders their learning experience. Many child workers drop out after primary school or never attend school at all. Many Gambians who have not participated in formal schooling think of it as a waste of time that could be better spent making money for the family’s survival.

  3. The legal working age of The Gambia is 16. For hazardous jobs, it is age 18. Yet, children often have to work to support their families’ income, and the government rarely conducts inspections. Boys in urban areas work as shoe-shiners or street-sweepers and some undertake more hazardous jobs, like hauling heavy objects, that could lead to future health problems. Girls commonly work in domestic service, or as street vendors selling fruit, water or candy. Both girls and boys in rural areas work on farms. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 commonly work in physical-labor industries like lumbering, sewing, brick-making or masonry, often for exhausting hours in unethical or unsafe conditions.

  4. Forced child marriage often translates into child labor. As of 2016, the legal age of marriage in The Gambia is 18. However, poverty incentivizes families to follow the cultural tradition of early marriage. Families sell about 30 percent of girls under 18 into marriage in exchange for livestock and other material goods that can help their families. About 9 percent become married before age 15. Child brides come from poor families in rural areas with little or no formal education, and they generally begin working in harsh conditions in industries such as agriculture.

  5. Child labor can lead to human trafficking. Child laborers in The Gambia are vulnerable to exploitation, including child prostitution, child pornography and sex tourism. Sexual exploitation in schools was once widespread but has significantly diminished thanks to the work of organizations like the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons. But cases of teachers forcing into students, especially girls, into sexual acts in exchange for compensation still exist today.

  6. There has been a recent resurgence of female genital mutilation in The Gambia. FGM causes serious medical consequences for women and girls. Since females usually receive FGM before puberty, female child laborers can suffer even more dangerous effects. The Gambia’s government outlawed FGM in 2015. But with the return of democracy to the country, many are returning to this tradition of female circumcision that is still a significant part of Gambian society. The harmful practice is especially prevalent in rural regions, like Basse, where 96 percent of between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone FGM. Organizations such as UNICEF and 28 Too Many are working to eradicate FGM in the country.

  7. The Gambia is a popular destination for refugees and immigrants escaping conflict in neighboring countries like Senegal. This leads to a greater risk of unaccompanied children in the country, who are vulnerable to forced labor and other forms of abuse. Evidence shows that traffickers traffick children to and from adjacent countries for commercial or sexual exploitation.

  8. In 2016 and 2017, The Gambia’s government made efforts to address the problem of child labor by launching policies designed to target the “worst forms of child labor.” The government created agencies responsible for enforcing these laws relating to child labor, including the Child Protection Alliance, The Gambia Police Force Child Welfare Unit and the Department of Social Welfare. The Gambia Tourism Board and the Tourism Security Unit combat sexual exploitation of children by preventing unaccompanied children from entering tourist areas. The National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons investigates child trafficking cases. Neighborhood watch groups and child protection committees have formed to monitor urban areas and report cases of child labor to the police.

  9. The International Labor Organization, (ILO) has helped pass acts of legislation aimed at reducing child labor in The Gambia. Efforts include the Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act in 2007, the Children’s Act in 2005 and the Children’s Court Rules Act of 2010. In 2010, the ILO facilitated the Decent Work Country Programme for The Gambia, collaborating with the Government of The Gambia and its social partners. The program included training workshops that covered the rights of workers, social protection, and social dialogue, with the overall goal of implementing a system of decent work for expanding the economy and reducing poverty.

  10. UNICEF has been working closely with the Gambian government to eliminate child labor and other abuses of children’s rights. UNICEF aided the enactment of the Children’s Act legislation that stemmed originally from the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of a Child in 1990. In 2013, UNICEF supported the world’s first national child protection system mapping and assessment, which included introducing a juvenile justice training for police and making children’s courts more child-friendly. UNICEF’s other work in The Gambia includes an FGM Plan of Action, a Gender-Based Violence Plan of Action and a communication strategy program to combat wife-beating.

The above 10 facts about child labor in The Gambia show both the progress made and the need for more action to solve this complex problem. With the help of foreign aid and the aforementioned nonprofit organizations, the Gambian government will continue to search for solutions to ending child labor.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

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

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