Gambia is one of Africa’s poorest countries. Human Development Report of the United Nations Programme for Development, ranked Gambia 168 of 182 countries with a low-income. Poverty is widespread, pervasive and predominantly rural. More than 60 percent of the rural population lives in poverty and in poor living conditions. Factors such as ethnicity and size of the village seem irrelevant to poverty, it is spread across the country, although rural areas are the centres. These areas are inhabited by one third of the poor rural population in the Gambia.
More than 90 percent of extremely poor people in the country and more than 70 percent of poor people depend on agriculture to survive. Each year, poor people in rural areas face with the so-called “hungry season” in a 2- to 4-month period, which at the height of the rainy season, between July and September, when food supplies are modest or exhausted. To meet the needs of their households, poor households depend on the income generated by the production of peanuts and other crops. Falling prices on the market mean that households have less money to meet their basic needs. The recent global crisis (financial crisis and soaring food and fuel prices) resulted in serious problems, especially for poor rural households. This crisis affected terribly the country’s economy and pushed more people into extreme poverty. Prices vary depending on the crisis and the prices, for example, for rice (staple food) increased to 50% above the regular price and many poor households find it extremely difficult to maintain their usual food intake, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Among the poorest in the country are farmers in mountain areas generating minimal revenues from the production of peanuts. At least half of the poor population are farmers and agricultural workers. Compared to men, women have a greater “frequency and severity” of poverty.
This link between gender and poverty is known as the feminisation of poverty. Production and processing of rice fields are predominantly women’s jobs, in mountain and lowland areas alike. Productivity is low because of the simple technologies and practices used. Nearly 88% of rural women are involved in horticultural activities (production of vegetables and fruits), and most women take care for small ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) to contribute to food security of the household. Usually, women do not own land or are supervisors, but they bear disproportionate work burdens. Often they do not have access to loans for activities that generate income, and generally have a limited role in decisions that affect their lives.
Poverty in the Gambia has its roots in slow economic growth and an uneven distribution of income. Poverty in rural areas is particularly a reason of lack of natural resources and farmers’ dependence on peanuts as their main source of income.
The primary causes of rural poverty in the Gambia:
– low soil fertility,
– low labour productivity in agriculture
– lack of access to resources such as land and water,
– badly organized import and export markets,
– low prices on world markets for products such as peanuts and certain types of rice,
– poor performance of rural institutions, including credit institutions and the lack of basic social services,
– irregular rain, which often leads to loss of harvest and income,
– poor rural people generally produce for family consumption and sell any surplus at extremely low prices. Poor farmers are trapped in a vicious circle of risk, reduced use of raw materials, low productivity and low incomes.
The country does not have significant mineral and natural resources, so the whole economy is largely based on agriculture and livestock farming. Tourism begun to develop in the 1970s, and it has the third most important role in the country. From the perspective of cultural heritage, Gambia has a high degree of ethnic diversity and offers a wide range of experiences for visitors. Attractions include performances and art – dance and music are highly developed and very important. Culinary experience is also very interesting, as Gambian food offer is very diverse and interesting. Finally, the Gambia offers a series of historical buildings, monuments and archaeological sites, which have now been included in the list of world heritage sites.
Poor people live in modest circumstances in rural areas and villages, most of the families live in small houses without electricity and running water. Some still have to walk far to get water. Five or more people sleep one the floor in one room because of a lack of beds. None of the children has their own room. They cook outside using charcoal. Toilets are mostly located outdoors, some of them have a wall to insure some privacy. They wash by pouring water on themselves because they do not have showers. There are only local toilets.