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Adapting irrigation to climate change (AICCA)

Background

Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2013, it ranked 172nd among 187 countries in the Human Development Index list of the United Nations. It has one of the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the world, which was about US$422 in 2014.

Agriculture is the second largest sector in the economy, accounting for about 30 percent of the country’s GDP and employing 44 percent of the work force of the Gambia. This sector has, therefore, a great potential in reducing poverty in the country and will need to increase productivity levels which are currently very low. The high dependency on rainfall and the low levels of private investments are two of the drivers behind this low agricultural productivity in the country. Production systems in the uplands are the most affected by the inadequate and erratic distribution of rainfall. The development of irrigation and drainage systems is therefore key to unlock the country´s agricultural potential.

It is estimated that only 1 percent of the harvested land is under irrigation in the country. About 90 percent of the production is carried out by over 500 000 smallholder-resource-poor farmers with limited access to water conservation and management technologies.

Rice and vegetables are cultivated in the lowlands generally by women while in the uplands men grow coarse grains and groundnuts. Millet and groundnuts are the main harvest, accounting for about 30 percent each of the country production, followed by rice (16 percent), sorghum (8 percent) and maize (7 percent).

The low productivity of the sector is one of the causes behind rural poverty in the country. The incidence of poverty is highest in the rural groundnut-producing areas.