Completely surrounded by neighbouring Senegal, The Gambia is a tiny country of 1.8 million inhabitants. The rural countryside is a far cry from the capital Banjul, a bustling tourist hotspot. With only half the adult population able to read and write, formal education is poor. The country’s relative stability has not translated into prosperity and The Gambia is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in Africa.
Just one sixth of the land is suitable for growing crops and poor soil fertility has led to diminishing harvests. Food insecurity and poor government services are aggravating the unfortunate situation for women farmers in rural areas.
We’re supporting young people to remain in their communities
It’s a challenging and uncertain time for The Gambia and communities in rural areas are facing significant challenges. In the midst of deepening food insecurity and increased unemployment, young people, especially young men, are looking towards economic migration; departing their rural communities in search of opportunity in Europe. Accessing Europe the ‘back-way’ is an extremely dangerous and expensive journey and one that forces young people through conflict zones and into unsafe waters, arriving in Europe into a climate of hostility, confusion and uncertainty.
Our programmes in Gambia focus on improving rural livelihoods so that more young people feel able to remain in their communities. Our work follows a three-pronged livelihoods methodology that helps those dependent on rural agriculture ‘hang in, step up and step out’.
Hanging in: Helping small-scale farmers achieve food security all year round
Stepping up: Enabling farmers to be financially resilient through improved agricultural practices and improved market access and linkages
Stepping out: Accessing alternative income generating activities and reducing dependency on farming so that young people can contribute economically and maintain sustainable livelihoods in their communities
Two young farmers compare their Groundnut yields following a trial. They are learning that adding 3 tonnes of manure per hectare during the growing season will result in far higher yields, larger profits and a more secure year ahead.
We’re helping people like Gibbel find a more sustainable alternative to farming
Gibbel is from The Gambia’s North Bank region. He was struggling to make a living from farming until Village Aid’s partner provided a loan of 14,000 Dalasi (£219). Using the loan to purchase a sewing machine, Kaur set up a small tailoring business. Business is going well and he is training five people in tailoring, including three boys who come to learn the skill after school. This is a great example of Village Aid’s ethos – give people the opportunity to improve their own lives and the wider community with benefit too!
Helping women like Marie to take control of their own futures
Marie is a cassava farmer in Kaur. She took out a loan from Village Aid’s partner to buy a plot of land and seedlings so she could produce vegetables. Marie is now growing cassava and okra, selling the whole field of crops for around 11-15,000 Dalasi (£175-£239). Not only are the cassava roots eaten, the leaves are cooked with palm oil as an accompaniment to chicken or fish and the stems sold as seedlings. Thanks to the loan from Village Aid, Marie can support her four children and earn a living.