FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

 SPECIAL REPORT

FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT MISSION TO THE GAMBIA

3 December 2002

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Mission Highlights

  • The 2002/03 cereal crop is forecast at 149 000 tonnes, 9 percent below 2001 and 1 percent below the last five years average. This decline is explained by a dry spell which lasted for 3 to 5 weeks from mid-July to the first week of August.
  • Domestic cereal needs are estimated at 216 120 tonnes. The shortfall of 102 000 tonnes is anticipated to be fully covered by commercial imports.
  • Millet prices have increased steeply over the last six months, rising by 245 percent from May to October 2002 and passing rice prices for the first time in the last five years. Millet prices are likely to stay high, given the poor harvest forecast for 2002/03.
  • Groundnut production in 2002/03 is forecast to be much lower than in 2001/02 (-52 percent). This will affect the purchasing power of farmers, since most are engaged in groundnut production.
  • Districts in the North Bank Division, Central Region Division and Upper River Division seem to be the hardest hit. A nutritional survey which WFP has just completed will indicate more precisely the areas most affected, once data analysis is completed. Provisionally, WFP plans to provide food assistance to 33 250 people in the most affected regions.

1. OVERVIEW

Following erratic rainfall in most parts of The Gambia during the beginning of the 2002/03 cropping season, the Government anticipated a massive crop failure which would result in food shortages, seed unavailability for the next planting season and high mortality for livestock. In response, a joint FAO/WFP Mission was fielded from 20-25 October to assess the situation and recommend actions to be taken.

The Mission met officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Fisheries and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment. Discussions were also held with relevant UN agencies, donor representatives, NGOs and grain importers.

The Mission split into two groups and was able to cover four regions: North Bank Division, Central River South Division, Lower River Division and Central River Division North. Interviews were conducted with farmers, extension service officers, traders and cooperatives representatives.

The first rains came in May, but were not sufficient for planting, which was delayed by 20 days, compared to normal. A dry spell extending from mid-July to the first week of August affected agricultural activities nationwide. Most early planted crops were lost, particularly in highlands. Early millet, maize, rice and groundnut performed very poorly countrywide.

The Mission has estimated the 2002/03 cereal production at 149 400 tonnes, compared to a bumper crop of 200 000 tonnes in 2001/02 and a five year average of 150 400 tonnes. The estimated cereal crop is 25 percent lower than last year and 1 percent below the average of the last five years.

There has been a dramatic increase of the millet prices in recent months. Retail prices jumped by 245 percent from May to mid-October. Two reasons can be advanced to explain this price rise. First, there might have been significant but unrecorded cross-border outflows to Senegal where millet prices have been on the rise since March 2002. Secondly, the 2001/02 groundnut marketing experienced some difficulties resulting in payment delays. Farmers may have sold some of their millet stocks earlier than usual to generate cash, ending up as buyers of grain at the beginning of the lean season, thus increasing demand for millet in a context of reduced supply.

With total domestic cereal utilization requirements estimated at 276 120 tonnes and domestic cereal availability at 173 930 tonnes, the country faces an import requirement of 102 190 tonnes. With commercial imports anticipated at 97 040 tonnes and pledged food aid at a little over 5 000 tonnes, the country’s shortfall will be fully covered.

Most districts in the NBD, CRD and URD seem to be the hardest hit. A nutritional survey, which WFP has just completed, will provide more precision to the Mission’s field observations.

2. ECONOMY AND AGRICULTURE

The Gambia is predominantly an agricultural country. About 80 percent of its population is engaged in farming which is characterized by low productivity and contributes 33 percent of GDP. Trading activities together with transport constitute a dynamic component of the services sector. However, tourism is Gambia’s primary earner of foreign exchange and provides a livelihood for the coastal population.

The Gambian economy suffered a setback following political instability in 1994 and the imposition of sanctions by donors and the collapse of tourism. Trade and export competitiveness were affected by the devaluation of the CFA franc in the same year, resulting in a negative GDP growth in 1994. Apparently, there were no lasting adverse effects, since real GDP resumed growing in 1995/96. Since 1998, trade, tourism and construction have regained momentum with backing from donors.

Inflation has remained under control since the mid-1990s until recently, thanks to the tight monetary policy of the Central Bank. The rate of increase in the consumer price index averaged 1.9 percent a year between 1996 and 2000, but picked up sharply in 2001 when it reached 4.3 percent .

The overall fiscal deficit , excluding grants, hovered around 4 percent of GDP between 1999 and 2001. This deficit has been financed mainly through donor grants and by domestic borrowing. There might be some relief coming under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC). Even if HIPC is aimed at external debt relief, its implementation would free resources for investment in social infrastructure and job creation activities.

Table 1. The Gambia: Annual indicators, 1997-2001

  1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
GDP at market prices (D million) 4 180 4 479 4 956 5 171 5 641
Real GDP growth (%) 4.9 3.5 6.4 5.6 4.6
Consumer price inflation 2.8 1.1 3.8 0.8 4.3
Population (millions) 1.19 1.23 1.38 1.39 1.40
Exports fob (US$ million) 108 130 120 127 n/a
Imports fob fob(US$ million) 176 207 194 192 n/a
Current account balance (US$ million) -15 -13 -19 -19 n/a
Exchange rate (av;Dalasi:US$) 10.2 10.64 11.39 12.79 16.0
Source: EIU, Country report, July 2002

A matter of concern is the depreciation of the Dalasi against the US dollar and other major traded currencies. In November 2001, it required less than D17 to buy a dollar (interbank exchange rate). In October 2002, the Dalasi had depreciated to D20:1US$. The rate was even higher on the parallel market. The depreciation of the Dalasi has been particularly steep since July 2002, due, among other factors, to early announcements of a bad cropping season and to higher inflation. The depreciation of the Dalasi is not only fuelling inflation, it is also pushing up prices of the country’s imported staple food: rice (see Section 4). It is forecast by the Central Bank of the Gambia that the Dalasi will stabilize starting in November 2002 and should gradually strengthen in 2003, assuming some recovery in tourism receipts, the groundnut industry, fish exports and re-export activities.

Approximately 45 percent of the Gambia’s 200 000 ha of cultivable land is planted with groundnuts in an average year, and almost all farmers are engaged in groundnut cultivation. The groundnut sector has experienced marketing problems for the last couple of years. The Department of Planning (DOP) is reporting that the 2002/03 marketing year should run more smoothly, with organisational problems expected to be resolved.

Government efforts to promote a coastal and river fisheries industry have made some progress, attracting assistance from the EU and other donors. The industry has eight small processing plants and 15 Gambia-registered vessels. Around 90 percent of the catch is exported to European markets.

Table 2. The Gambia: Principal exports and imports,1999 (US$ million)

Exports Imports
Groundnut products 10.0 Food & beverages 89.4
Fish & fish preparations 3.1 Machinery & transport equipment 46.5
Re-exports 104.0 Manufactures 53.8
Source: EIU, Country Report July 2002

 Source: The Central Bank of The Gambia.

3. FOOD PRODUCTION IN 2002/2003

3.1 Agrometeorological conditions

The rainy season started in May when some rains were registered nationwide. However, they were not sufficient for seeding but allowed land preparation. In the Eastern part, the first rains were late by three weeks.

The first measurable rains of the season arrived on 4 June in the eastern half of the country. By the end of the first dekad (10 June), the entire country had recorded measurable rainfall, and in some places, the rains were significant for the commencement of agricultural activities. During the second dekad, a storm traversed the entire country, bringing significant rainfall. The single rainy day during this dekad was followed by almost 10 rainless days countrywide.

In July, rainfall increased in the early and middle part of the dekad, but ceased during the later part throughout the country. This dry spell seriously affected agricultural activities in the country. Rains resumed in the middle of the first dekad of August, marking an end of the long dry spell, which had lasted 2-3 weeks, depending on regions.

In September, significant rains were recorded during the first dekad, and the distribution shows that the coastal zone recorded more rains. During the second dekad, rains were still being recorded countrywide, but mostly in the western third of the country, with areas in the middle and eastern parts receiving low amounts.

Rains were still being recorded in most regions of The Gambia in the third week of October during the time of the Mission. They will probably contribute to the full development of late-planted crops. However, cumulative rainfall was still below the 2001 level as of late October.

  Jambanjelly: Western
  Kerewan: North Bank
  Jenoi: Lower river
  Kuntaur: CRD (north)
  Georgetown: CRD (south)
  Basse: Upper River

3.3 Areas planted

This year the planting season began during the first dekad of June when significant rainfall covered the whole country. But due to the long dry spell in July, young plants were seriously stressed by a shortage of moisture. Many crops were lost, particularly in high altitudes. Maize, rice and groundnuts were the most affected as some millet and sorghum recovered. Compared to normal, planting was delayed by more than 20 days.

The total area planted to cereals is estimated at 145 100 hectares, which is about 9 percent lower than last year. The largest decline was in the rice area, particularly swamp rice (-48 percent). But early millet and maize areas were 6 percent higher than last year (Table 1). For coarse grains planted as a whole, area decreased by 5.4 percent compared to last year.

On a regional basis (Table 5), Western Region Division (WRD) has been the most affected, with a drop in area planted of 41 percent compared to last year. Central Region Division South (CRDS) and Lower River Division (LRD) were also seriously affected (-12.7 percent and –10.6 percent respectively).

3.4 Crop yields

As a result of the poor rainy season, yields of cereals are expected to be lower than last year except for irrigated rice which should be at about the same level of yield as last year.

From 1990 to 2000, national fertilizer consumption hovered around 4 000 tonnes per year, which implies very low rates of application per hectare. Irrigated rice is the main beneficiary of fertilizers.

3.5 Estimated cereal production in 2002/2003

The 2002/2003 cereal production estimates are based on the national agricultural survey data by a multidisciplinary seasonal monitoring group, cross-checked and validated by the Mission.

The 2002/03 cereal production is estimated at 149 400 tonnes, compared to 200 000 tonnes last year and to a five year average of 150 400 tonnes, or a decline of 25 percent and 1 percent respectively. The 2001/02 crop had been exceptional and the best in the last five last years. The 2002/03 estimate by the Mission is more favourable than the preliminary government evaluation in early August. This is explained by the pick-up in rainfall since mid-August.

Table 3. The Gambia: Estimates of area and production of major crops during the 2002 cropping season

Crop Cropping Period
2001/2002 Average
1997-2001
Provisional
2002/2003
2002/2003 vs
2001/2002
2002/2003 vs
Average
Plant.
Area
‘000
(ha)
Prod.
‘000
(T)
Plant.
Area
‘000
(ha)
Prod.
‘000
(T)
Plant.
Area
‘000
(ha)
Prod.
‘000
(T)
Plant
Area
(%)
Prod.
(%)
Plant.
Area
(%)
Prod.
(%)
Early millet 81. 3 89.0 66.0 70. 0 86 .4 80.3 6..3 -10 30.9 14.7
Late millet 16.1 15.9 13. 3 12.8 10.4 8. 3 -35. -48 -21.8 -35.2
Sorghum 26.2 33.4 17.5 19.8 18.1 19.5 -31 -41.6 3.4 -1.5
Maize 17. 2 29.0 12.0 18.6  18. 3 21.4 6. -26.2 52.5 15.1
Total coarse grain 140.8 167.3 108. 8 121. 2 133. 2 129.5 -5.4% -22.6 22.4 6.8
Upland rice 8..9 9..9 7. 4 8.7 6. 0 4.1 -33 -59 -18.9 -52.9
Swamp rice 6..9 9..3 6. 9 9.4 3. 6 2.4 -48 -74.2 -47.8 -74.5
Irrigated rice 2 .3 13. 4 1.9 11.1 2. 3 13.4 0 0 21.1 20.7
Total paddy 18.1 32.6 16. 2 29. 2 11. 9 19. 9 -34.2 -39 -26.6 -31.9
Total cereal 158. 9 200.0 125. 0 150.4 145. 1 149.4 -8.7 -25.3 16.1 -0.7
Groundnut 138.7 154.2 97. 7 112. 4 105. 5 73.4 -23.9 -52.4 8.1 -34.6

Table 4. The Gambia: Coarse Grains areas, yield, production in 2002/2003 by regions (‘000)

  Early Millet Late Millet Sorghum Maize Total Coarse Grains
Regions* (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t)
Gambia 86.4 80.3 10.4 8.3 18.1 19.5 18.3 21.4 133.2 129.5
WRD 0.4 0.3 4.9 4.8 1.8 2.6 3.2 3.8 10.3 11.5
NBD 46.8 36.9 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.0 3.9 3.4 51.7 41.3
LRD 8.9 8.8 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.2 0.9 0.9 10.1 9.9
CRDN 16.1 16.2 0.1 0.0 3.9 3.6 2.5 2.3 22.6 22.1
CRDS 7.9 11.9 0.1 0.1 2.8 3.4 1.7 1.7 12.5 17.1
URD 6.3 6.2 5.4 3.4 8.3 8.7 6.1 9.3 26.1 27.6
* WRD: Western Region Division; NBD: North Bank Division; LRD: Lower Region Division;
CRDN: Central Region Division North; CRDS: Central Region Division South; URD: Upper River Division

The regions most affected by poor production are WRD (-50 percent), LRD (-35 percent), NBD (-24 percent) and URD (-20 percent). The main cereal producing region is North Bank Division, which accounts for about 30 percent of national cereal production. The 2002 production for this region has declined, despite an increase of area planted by 2 percent.

Table 5. The Gambia: Cereals production in 2002 compared to 2001 by region (‘000)

  Rice
2002
Coarse Grains
2002
Total Cereal
2001
2002 over 2001
%
Region (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) Area Prod.
Gambia 11.9 19.8 145.1 149.3 158.9 200.0 -8.7 -25.3
WRD 2.7 1.7 13.0 13.2 22.1 26.5 -41.1 -50.2
NBD 1.6 1.0 53.3 42.3 53.3 55.9 1.9 -24.3
LRD 2.5 1.6 12.6 11.5 14.1 17.6 -10.6 -34.7
CRDN 1.1 0.7 23.7 22.8 25.2 27.9 -6.0 -18.2
CRDS 3.3 14.3 15.8 31.4 18.1 36.9 -12.7 -14.9
URD 0.7 0.5 26.8 28.1 26.9 35.2 -0.4 -20.2

Table 6. The Gambia: Cereals production in the last five years (‘000)

  97/98 98/99 99/2000 2000/01 2001/02 Av. 97-01
(ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(T)
E Millet 59.8 54.4 53.5 55.6 63.4 72.6 71.8 78.5 81.3 89 66 70.0
L.Millet 13.7 12.0 13.8 11.7 8.8 8.3 14.0 16.1 16.1 15.9 13.3 12.8
Sorghum 13.4 12.9 12.2 9.9 16.2 18.0 19.7 24.9 26.2 33.4 17.5 19.8
Maize 7.2 8.5 9.1 13.0 12.8 20.4 13.7 22.0 17.2 29 12 18.6
Total CG 94.1 87.8 88.6 90.2 101.2 119.3 119.2 141.5 140.8 167.3 108.8 121.2
Upland Rice 6.3 6.5 7.7 8.0 6.9 8.9 7.1 10.1 8.9 9.9 7.4 8.7
Swamp Rice 7.9 10.2 8.3 10.9 5.4 5.8 5.8 10.9 6.9 9.3 6.9 9.4
Irrigat. Rice 1.3 7.4 1.3 7.8 2.2 13.4 2.3 13.4 2.3 13.4 1.9 11.1
Total rice 15.5 24.1 17.3 26.7 14.5 28.1 15.2 34.4 18.1 32.6 16.1 29.2
Total cereal 109.6 111.9 105.9 116.9 115.7 147.4 134.4 175.9 158.9 199.9 125 150.4

3.6 Other Crops

The major cash crop, groundnut, will also perform poorly this cropping season. Production is forecast at 73 400 tonnes, 52.4 percent below last year.

Table 7. The Gambia: Groundnut production in 2002 compared to 2001 by region (‘000)

  Groundnuts
2001
Groundnuts
2002
2002 over 2001
%
Region (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t) (ha) P(t)
Gambia 138.7 154.2 105.5 73.4 -23.9 -52.4
WRD 12.7 10.7 9.8 5.3 -22.8 -50.5
NBD 55.4 58.4 40.3 27.6 -27.3 -52.7
LRD 9.4 8.7 7.2 4.4 -23.4 -49.4
CRDN 20.5 28.8 15.7 10.6 -23.4 -63.2
CRDS 19.2 28.8 15.0 15.6 -21.9 -45.8
URD 21.5 18.8 17.5 9.9 -18.6 -47.3

3.7 Livestock

The 2001/2002 Agricultural census reveals that 74 percent of farmers rear poultry. About 40 percent of farmers reported having cattle, compared to 38 percent for sheep and 58 percent for goats. The largest number of cattle is found in Basse (URD) and WRD.

Table 8. The Gambia: Livestock Population and Distribution by Region, 2000

Regions Cattle Sheep Goats Poultry
Kanifing 1 731 5 395 2 314 12 380
WRD 60 409 19 955 50 996 188 818
LRD 46 621 18 950 36 982 84 824
NBD 52 858 15 196 41 469 122 382
CRDN 58 163 19 134 32 938 64 978
CRDS 39 739 23 298 31 349 61 715
URD 63 646 27 304 32 356 51 234
TOTAL 323 167 129 232 228 404 586 331
Source : Report of the Agricultural Census of the Gambia, 2001/2002

3.8  Fisheries

The fisheries sector of the Gambia is divided into two sub-sectors: industrial and artisanal. The industrial fisheries is characterized by high capital investment, mainly concentrated in the Greater Banjul Area. By contrast, artisanal fisheries is dispersed and takes place up to 200 km up the Gambia river. Artisanal production is 80 percent locally consumed. Estimated gross national consumption of fish is about 25 kg per person per year and is considered to be one of the main sources of animal protein in Gambians diets1.

Table 9. The Gambia:- Fish Production, 1997-2001 (tonnes)

Years Industrial Artisanal Total
1997 7 988 30 243 38 231
1998 7 012 26 534 33 546
1999 10 249 29 743 39 992
2000 9 237 26 867 36 104
2001 11 198 32 016 43 214

4.  FOOD SUPPLY AND DEMAND SITUATION

4.1 Access to food and prices

Only 15 percent of the rice consumed in the country is produced locally; thus the country relies heavily on imports. This exposes the average household to adverse variations in the exchange rate of the national currency against major currencies and the world price of rice. Collectively, the food security of the Gambians is linked to their capacity to generate foreign exchange through exports and tourism.

Import and distribution of rice are liberalized in the Gambia and the market is mainly supplied by four main importers who account for about 95 percent of total imports. Importers sell to wholesalers who in turn sell to retailers. Until the liberalisation of rice imports in Senegal in 1996, large volumes of rice imported through the port of Banjul were smuggled to Senegal. According to interviewed importers, the volume of re-exported rice to Senegal has been significantly reduced since 1996, but is still substantial, estimated at 30 percent of total rice imports.

The free market also applies to coarse grains, which are mainly produced locally. Being a small country surrounded by Senegal, The Gambia is open to informal trans-border trade between the two countries.

There has been a dramatic increase in the millet price since last May. The retail price of millet jumped from D3.22/kg in May to D6.62/kg in June. It was D7.92/kg at the beginning of October, or 245 percent higher than last May (see Figure 3).

  Source: NASS 2002 (DOP/DOSA)

In June 2002, millet prices exceeded rice prices and have stayed higher ever since. This is unusual in the Gambia, at least over the last five years.

Millet production was above average in 2001/2002 (see Table 10). Therefore, higher millet prices since May 2002 cannot be explained by a poor harvest in 2001/2002. Two reasons can be advanced to explain these higher prices: firstly, with millet prices in Senegal increasing sharply since March 2002, it is very likely that there have been informal (unrecorded) exports to this country whose market is larger. The CFA franc, a convertible currency, is attractive enough in normal times for Gambian traders; it becomes even more attractive when prices are high.

Table 10. The Gambia: Production of millet, 1997/98 to 2001/02, (‘000 tonnes)

Year 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 Average
Production 66.4 67.3 80.9 94.6 106 83

A second factor lies with the difficulties experienced with groundnut marketing in 2001/2002. There were reports of delays in collecting the crop and paying farmers. Producers may, therefore, have been forced to sell some of their millet stocks to generate cash.

It is interesting to note that millet producers have benefited from the high millet prices. Figure 4 shows that retail and lumo2 prices of millet have moved in tandem from November 2001 to September 2002.

As for rice, particularly broken rice, prices have increased too, but less dramatically. Broken rice prices increased from D4.71/kg in November 2001 to D5.52/kg in September 2002, an increase of 17 percent. This can be explained essentially by the depreciation of the Dalasi against the US$ during this period.

In marketing year 2002/03, grain prices in Gambia will continue to be influenced by the market situation in Senegal. If, as expected, millet prices in Senegal begin to escalate in March-April 2003 as they did this year, this is going to have an impact on millet prices in the Gambia due to active trans-border trade.

As for rice, prices will depend upon the exchange rate of the Dalasi. The Central Bank of The Gambia has forecast a strengthening of the Dalasi in 2003. This forecast assumes some recovery in tourism receipts, fish exports and re-exports. In addition, assuming that external debt relief materializes in 2003 under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, the reduced debt service would increase the country’s import capacity for rice, and hence lower consumer prices.

4.3 Cereal supply and demand balance, 2002/2003

The forecast of the cereal supply/demand situation for the 2002/03 marketing year (November/October), summarized in Table 11 below, is based on the following assumptions and Mission observations:

Table 11. The Gambia: Cereal supply/demand balance for 2002/2003(‘000 tonnes)

  Rice Wheat flour Coarse grains Total
Domestic availability 44.30 0.00 129.63 173.93
Opening stocks 24.35 0.00 0.00 24.35
National production 19.95 0.00 129.63 149.58
Domestic utilization 117.98 24.82 133.32 276.12
Food use 87.60 24.82 113.88 226,30
Other uses 8.93 0.00 19.44 28,37
Closing stocks 21.45 0.00 0.00 21.45
Import requirements 73.68 24.82 3.69 102.19

Cereal import requirements in 2002/03 are estimated at 102 190 tonnes, mainly rice which accounts for 72 percent. The entire import requirement is expected to be covered commercially by private importers.

5. FOOD ASSISTANCE FOR VULNERABLE GROUPS

A. VAM Findings

WFP undertook a full nutrition survey in 29 villages (30 clusters) during the month of October. The nutrition survey will complement the household food security data which has been collected by Concern. The study included a total of 697 children aged between 6-59 months. All children were weighed and measured, and questions were asked about illnesses, diet and water source.

The study concludes that acute malnutrition (wasting) among the children surveyed is 11.2 percent. This rate is slightly above the 10 percent ceiling used in African countries to indicate an alarming situation. The levels of wasting are higher than the levels indicated in the recent MICS survey (2000). The UNICEF Multi-Indicator Cluster survey only found 8.6 percent of wasting among 0-59 months old children.

Boys seem to be more malnourished than girls, at 12.5 and 9.8 percent respectively The age group most affected by acute malnutrition is the group of children in the weaning period, i.e. children between 12-23 months old. For this group the acute malnutrition is 18 percent. Children under 1 year or above 3 years of age are much less affected by acute malnutrition (rates <10 percent). The malnutrition per age table also indicates the findings from the MICS survey.

Table 12. The Gambia: Nutritional situation of children

Total 695 children Male (%) Female (%) Total (%)
Moderate acute malnutrition (%) 11.1 9.5 10.3
Severe acute malnutrition (%) 1.4 0.3 0.9
Total acute malnutrition (%) 12.5 9.8 11.2

Table 13. The Gambia: Nutrition situation of children by age group

Total 695 children 6-11
Months
12-23
Months
24-35
Months
36-47
Months
> 47
Months
Total
Moderate acute malnutrition
(%)
9.4 15.9 12.7 4.7 9.8 10.4
Severe acute malnutrition
(%)
1 2.3 0.6     0.9
Total acute malnutrition (%) 10.4 18.2 13.3 4.7 5.8 11.2
Total acute malnutrition (%)
MICS survey, 2000
12.5 12 7.4 6.1 3.8 8.6

Chronic malnutrition (stunting) is 16.2 percent, which is similar to the results of the MICS survey (17 percent) and much lower than the average chronic malnutrition levels found in African developing countries (30 percent).

Morbidity is very high among children (66 percent). Over 50 percent had suffered from malaria in the two weeks before the study. There seems to be an association between morbidity and acute malnutrition. Acute malnutrition among children who had been ill over the last two weeks is equal to 14.3 percent compared to 5.4 percent for children who had not been ill. Especially malaria and diarrhoea seem to be associated with acute malnutrition (acute malnutrition of 15 percent for children with malaria or diarrhoea compared to 6 percent for children without). Morbidity levels are high for all communities visited.

The mothers were asked to indicate the foods consumed by the child over the last 24 hours. 23.5 percent have an extremely diversified weaning diet composed of breast milk, cereals, sugar, vegetable and animal protein and fruits and vegetables. Another 16 percent consumes a good variety of foods including animal and other protein sources, cereals, fruits and vegetables. 41 percent eat a medium diet without fruits and vegetables. However, 19 percent of the children interviewed have an incomplete and poor diet. The majority of these children are in the age category 6-23 months and receive insufficient complementary foods. They are exclusively breastfed or consume breast milk complemented with only a cereal and some sugar. They have significantly higher levels of acute malnutrition (16 percent).

In summary, acute malnutrition rates are relatively high. The fact that a household has enough food does not ensure a good nutritional status of the children. Illnesses and inappropriate diets are also associated with acute malnutrition. If nutrition interventions are envisaged they should focus on the smaller children (6-36 month). The interventions should include education on health, nutrition (weaning practices in particular) and hygiene issues.

Table 14. The Gambia: Diets of children

Types of diet eaten by children Frequency Percent Quality of diet
Breast milk plus cereals, at least animal and
vegetable protein source, and fruits or vegetables
164 23.5 Very good weaning diet
Very large variety of foods (animal and vegetables
protein source, cereals, and fruits or vegetables)
113 16.2 Very good
Poor diet (cereals and beans or cereals and
breast milk)
134 19.2 Poor
Cereals, animal and vegetable protein source, no
fruit and vegetables
286 41.0 Medium

Table 15. The Gambia: Children with poor diets

Months Children with poor diet (%)
6-11 45.8
12-23 21.0
24-35 15.0
36-47 9.3
> 47 11.6
Total 19.2

B. Envisaged WFP intervention

WFP acknowledges the poor rainfall experienced in The Gambia during the 2002/03 season and is responding by expanding its current projects in the country. The community-based rural development Food For Work project is currently being expanded and further expansion is recommended for 2003. From WFP in-country stocks, about 300 tonnes of maize meal, vegetable oil and pulses will be allocated for immediate utilisation for food for work activities to be undertaken between now and December 2002 in the most affected regions.

Through the WFP Regional EMOP envisaged for the countries of the sub-region and based on the availability of resources, The Gambia will be allocated food commodities to enable the country office to expand its FFW activities and/or free distributions to the targeted vulnerable population during next year extended hungry season if the need arises. These distributions would take place in collaboration with the Government and NGOs.

WFP will support 33 250 people in North Bank, Central River, Upper River, Lower River et Western Division.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.

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Henri Josserand
Chief, GIEWS, FAO
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-mail: giews1@fao.org
M. Aranda da Silva
Regional Director, ODD, WFP
Fax: 00221-8223798 E-mail:
Manuel.ArandadaSilva@wfp.org

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1. Menday Asberr N, Fisheries and Natural Resources Department, report undated.

2. “Lumo” markets are weekly markets in villages in the rural areas.