Estimated 89000 Gambians In Need Of Food Assistance

An estimated 89000 people in the Gambia will be in need of food assistance between this June and August due to the drop in 2018 production of groundnuts, the major cash crop, a regional study has revealed.

According to The Cadre Harmonisé (CH), a current regional framework aimed to prevent food crisis by quickly identifying affected populations and proffering appropriate measures to improve their food and nutrition security, about 46 000 people were estimated to be in need of food assistance from March to May 2019, with a slight increase from the 45 000 people estimated in March to May 2018.

It said the number is expected to increase to over 89 000 people during the lean season (June to August 2019) if no mitigation actions are taken.

The report said despite adequate availabilities of grains on markets, most households do not have enough access to food as prices of most staple foods are above average and households’ purchasing power declined due to the drop in 2018 production of groundnuts, the major cash crop.

It added that, some vulnerable households still depend on external food assistance to satisfy their food consumption.
The report said the country’s farming season is already hit by a delays in planting operations of millet, rice, maize and sorghum crops, to be harvested from October due to late start of the ongoing rainy season.

It added that the low cumulative rainfall amounts since June resulted in poor crop germination rates and some replanting may be required.

Well below-average

The report said the country’s 2018 agricultural season was characterised by late onsets of rains across all regions, prolonged and abnormal cessation of rains (three to four weeks) and outbreaks of Fall Armyworms.

“This has resulted in delayed planting or germination failure of crops that were often needed to be replanted with consequent extra costs for farmers,” it stated.

“The 2018 national cereal production was estimated at 93 000 tonnes, about 50 percent below the average of the previous five years and 24 percent below the previous year’s output. Groundnuts, the main cash crop, also declined by 54 percent compared to 2017 and 66 percent compared to the five-year average. Major declines were also observed in maize and millet production.”

The report said the Gambia is currently importing more than over half of the national cereal utilisation in the country.
It said rice accounts for about 70 percent of overall cereal import requirements in the Gambia, followed by wheat, which accounts for about 20 percent.

It added: “Import requirements for the 2018/19 (November/October) marketing year are forecast at an above-average level of 250 000 tonnes. Following last year’s production decline, the country built up substantial level of stocks with a record of rice imports. Consequently, imports in 2018/19 are expected to fall slightly compared to last year’s record, as stocks will be drawn down to meet national food requirement.”