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What are the current issues in Gambia

The Gambia, with a population of over 1.7 million, remains one of the least developed, low-income and food-deficit countries in the world, ranked 165 of 186 on the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). The country’s economy is predominately subsistence agrarian, and 53 percent of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.

The Gambia, with a population of over 1.7 million, remains one of the least developed, low-income and food-deficit countries in the world, ranked 165 of 186 on the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). The country’s economy is predominately subsistence agrarian, and 53 percent of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.

While subsistence agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, domestic cereal production accounts for only up to 60 percent of annual consumption requirements. A December 2011 post-harvest assessment (led by the Ministry of Agriculture and WFP) revealed a 50 percent drop in overall crop production from the five year average. In part due to these production deficiencies, the Gambia relies heavily on food imports, and the relatively undiversified economy makes the country highly vulnerable to external shocks.

According to the 2012 national nutrition survey, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is 10.1 percent, ranging from 7.5 percent to 13.1 percent across the five regions. The 2012 Standardized Monitoring and Assessment in Relief and Transitions (SMART) demonstrated that in three out of the country’s five regions, the rates remain above 10 percent, the threshold for conditions to be considered “serious.” The prevalence of stunting ranges from 13.9 to 30.7 percent, and the two regions (north bank and central river region) with serious GAM rates also suffer critical stunting rates.

About 46.5 percent of adult men and women are literate. Government policies provide for universal access to pre-primary and primary education, but the quality of education and retention rates are of concern. According to the 2010 Country Status Report, 29 percent of the children do not attend school, and primary education completion rate is just 74 percent.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Gambia

WFP has been present in The Gambia for the past 40 years, providing school meals and humanitarian assistance to fight hunger and build the resilience of vulnerable communities. This effort is carried out in close partnership with the Government and other development partners.

WFP currently conducts several activities in The Gambia. The Capacity Development Project, which will last four years, looks to establish the foundation for a nationally run home-grown school feeding programme. In addition to providing school meals, the project empowers government stakeholders by transferring knowledge, skills and expertise in the management of school-feeding. In partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP also supports small farmers by purchasing food for its school feeding activities locally. In total, the development project supports approximately 100,000 beneficiaries in 585 schools.

School gardens have been another component of this development project, supplementing school meals with fresh nutritious foods rich in micronutrients and introducing children to new skills and techniques. In order to improve the quality and quantity of food grown, a school garden survey was completed in August 2013, and WFP and MoBSE have developed a School Gardens Manual to facilitate training of school gardeners. WFP is also working closely with MoBSE to build the capacity of the School Agricultural and Food Management Unit (SAFMU), which monitors and evaluates school feeding projects and looks to strengthen the overall institutional framework for a school feeding system.

In 2012, WFP launched an emergency operation (EMOP) to assist more than 200,000 people including children under 5 in response to the Sahel food crisis of 2011/12 farming season in The Gambia. The operation targeted farming communities in five regions through general food distributions, blanket supplementary feeding for children 6-59 months and two month unconditional cash transfer pilot, which gave beneficiaries greater choice and variety in their diet. The cash transfer, the first of its kind on such a scale, was made possible with support of the United States Agency for International Development: Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance – USAID/OFDA.

The current Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) serves as a follow-up operation to the EMOP and targets 100,200 beneficiaries across all regions impacted by crop failure and floods. Specifically, the PRRO will:

  • Support the treatment of 40,500 malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers and the prevention of acute malnutrition in targeted regions for 22,500 children 6-23 months
  • Rebuild the livelihoods of the 40,000 most vulnerable people and support their transition to recovery in the post-disaster context through asset creation and resilience activities
  • Support the national disaster risk reduction agenda by enhancing government capacity in emergency preparedness and response.

WFP also supports the Government of The Gambia in managing disaster risk. As chair of the UN Disaster Management Group, WFP assists the Government in its effort to prevent and mitigate the effects of natural disasters such as floods that have affected the country in the last few years. Notably, WFP plays an important role in developing a favorable policy environment by building the capacity of national institutions at central and regional levels to carry out activities such as contingency planning, emergency preparedness, needs assessment and immediate relief assistance.

As part of its effort to put food and nutrition security at the forefront of early warning and disaster risk reduction efforts, WFP brought together various development stakeholders and humanitarian partners to produce a quarterly comprehensive Food Security and Market Information Bulletin. The objective of this bulletin is to inform decision-makers in The Gambia on issues such as agricultural production, food trade and price trends, identification of groups most at risk to food insecurity, climate forecast, vulnerability trends, and more.

In 2013, the Office will continue to build on partnerships and strengthen its commitment for a Gambia free of hunger and malnutrition.

Featured Gambia publications

  • Gambia: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 349 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Gambia? Visit the Gambia publications archive.