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The Gambia has a largely subsistence-based agrarian economy, but has remained a food-deficit country that produces just over 50 percent of its total food supply. FAO has been distributing vegetable seeds, providing animal health care and rehabilitating water points in an effort to improve agricultural production. The Sahel crisis has particularly affected the Gambia. The late start of rains, long dry spells and pest infestations have meant that key staple food crops, such as rice, millet and groundnut, have further declined in production. FAO is focused on rehabilitating the productive capacities of the vulnerable population, to help restore their livelihoods.
Responding to the drought
Many farming families in the Gambia depend on the production of both agriculture, or livestock products, to feed themselves and their families. An estimated 18 percent of the population has been affected by the drought and is not producing enough food. FAO is providing fertilizer, rice and vegetable seeds and farm equipment to ensure that families are able to cultivate their land during the dry season. Women are the traditional small ruminant and vegetable producers in the Gambia and will be one of the principal beneficiaries. FAO is also rehabilitating wells and perimeter fences around vegetable gardens, to ensure water availability and improve vegetable production. Pastoralists in the country have also been affected by lack of pasture and little access to veterinary services. FAO is assisting these pastoralists with animal feed supplements, vaccines and other veterinary supplies.
Improving access to food
The Gambia imports a large portion of their food needs. High international food prices have created an upward pressure on the domestic price of imported food, meaning many families have little access to the food that they need to buy. The most affected families are upland rice and groundnut farmers, who’s income levels have decreased owing to agricultural losses. FAO is supporting agricultural production to ensure these farmers can increase their income. In addition, vegetable gardens are being supported, which allow families to produce vegetables for themselves and also sell their surplus for additional cash.
Food security monitoring as a priority
To better target communities and ensure more timely responses it is imperative to improve the monitoring of risks and crises, as well as to have up to date food security information. FAO is supporting the Government of the Gambia, and its partners, to ensure regular assessment of the food and nutrition situation in the country. In addition, FAO is also building the capacity and improving coordination of risk management activities by creating a working group that will facilitate the dissemination of food security information. FAO will also participate in carrying out SMART surveys, which are standardized monitoring and assessments of relief and transition, to have more detailed information on needs throughout the country.