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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 05-May-2020


  1. National weather forecast points to above‑average cumulative rainfall in 2020

  2. Well below‑average cereal production harvested in 2019

  3. Continued assistance needed for vulnerable people

National weather forecast points to above‑average cumulative rainfall in 2020

Seasonal dry weather conditions are prevailing in most areas of the country and planting of the 2020 crops is expected to begin in May for the maize crop and in June‑July for the other crops, following the normal onset of rains.

According to the latest Forum on the Agro‑Hydro‑Climatic Seasonal Forecast in Sudano‑Sahelian Africa (PRESASS), the June/October rainy season is likely to be characterized by above‑average rainfall amounts and will continue until October. If this forecast materializes, it will contribute to a favourable agricultural production and the availability of pasture and water as well as good pastoral conditions.

In most pastoral areas, seasonal rains are expected to start in July. The pastoral lean season is ongoing and some localized pasture deficits are reported across the country, in particular in the areas which experienced a prolonged dry season and bush fires in 2019. In 2020, the livestock mortality rate has been high due to some outbreaks of Foot‑and‑Mouth Disease (FMD), Pest Des Petit Ruminant (PPR), Contagious Bovine Pleurae Pneumonia (CBPP) and New Castle Disease (NCD) for poultry.

Well below‑average cereal production harvested in 2019

Harvesting of the 2019 major crops, including millet, maize and rice (paddy), was completed last November. The 2019 national cereal production is estimated at 87 000 tonnes, 45 percent below average and 6 percent below the 2018 output. The 2019 cropping season was marked by unfavourable rains, with a late start in late July and prolonged breaks of the rains in late August. This resulted in delayed planting and germination failure of crops, leading to extra expenditures for farmers.

Imports account for over half of the national cereal utilization in the country. Rice accounts for about 70 percent of the overall cereal import requirement, followed by wheat, which accounts for about 20 percent. Import requirements for the 2019/20 (November/October) marketing year are forecast at an above‑average level of 290 000 tonnes as a result of high demand for human consumption.

Humanitarian assistance needed for most vulnerable people

According to the March 2020 "Cadre Harmonisé" analysis, the aggregate number of severely food insecure people (CH Phase 3: “Crisis” and above) is estimated at about 82 000 people, significantly up from the 46 000 estimated in March 2019. If appropriate measures and responses are not implemented, this number is projected to increase to nearly 136 000 people during the next lean season between June and August 2020, well above the about 89 000 food insecure people that were estimated for the same period in 2019. The deterioration of the food security situation is mainly due to the significant reduction in the 2019 production of groundnuts, the major cash crop, with consequent declines in households’ income and purchasing power. In addition, the country faces multiple stressors including climate change variability and decreased access to adequate and quality forage resources. These have far‑reaching consequences for animal production and productivity. The delay in the start of rains and reduced amounts, negatively impacted on the biomass yields of pastures and quantity of water in the natural water catchment points for livestock production.

According to the National Emergency Response Plan, the country needs 2 710.7 tonnes of food commodities for the 22 073 highly vulnerable households from April to May 2020 and 16 867.6 tonnes for the 91 572 highly vulnerable and marginally food insecure households from June to August. In addition, it requires USD 21 157 116 mainly to support seeds, fertilizers, vegetables and livestock inputs. The FAO office in the Gambia has pledged programmatic support to the Response Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture in the form of agriculture inputs. The overall burden of acute malnutrition in 2020 was initially estimated at 33 283 (Moderate Acute Malnutrition [MAM] 42 676) out of the total population of 368 658 children 6‑59 months old. Further analysis factoring the effect of food security and COVID‑19 on malnutrition estimates the burden at 58 177 (MAM 47 276), marking a 75 percent increase in the estimated burden of the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) if there is no immediate intervention. The 21 percent of the GAM increase is due to food insecurity, while the increase due to the combined effect of food security and COVID‑19 is estimated at 36 percent.

COVID‑19 and measures adopted by the Government

In view of the evolving COVID‑19 situation, the Government has decreed a Public Emergency through to 17 May 2020. The Government has taken some sanitary, social and economic measures. In addition, it has made available 2 000 tonnes of fertilizers to support farmers in the upcoming rainy season as well as measures for procurement and distribution of rice, sugar and refined cooking oil for vulnerable communities.

Payments of the 2019 tax returns for the retail and service sectors have been deferred for the first and second quarters of 2020.

In early April, the World Bank, through the International Development Association (IDA), approved a USD 10 million grant to strengthen the preparedness of the national health system in terms of prevention, detection and response to the threat posed by the virus. The European Commission has granted GMD 512 640 000 (EUR 9 million) of budget support to help the country to implement its responses to the COVID‑19 pandemic. Mandatory restrictions on population movements, combined with heightened levels of fear, have led many people to remain at home. Although these measures have not affected the access to food, further restrictions on population movements may hamper the access to land and have a negative impact on the 2020 agricultural production.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.