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Groundnut Farming in Gambia
 
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Introduction:
The introduction of the groundnut (commonly known as the peanut) to the Gambia was by the Portuguese in the 16th century from a Brazilian species. Up until the 1830s it was grown by Gambians for domestic consumption only and not for agricultural export.

It was later introduced in The Gambia by the British as a cash crop.

Farming Production:
Just before the start of the rains farmers will clear their field through the 'slash and burn' method then they brush their field hopefully in time for the first rainfall. As soon as the rains start the land is ploughed and the seed-nuts are sown. They are often joined by the nawettanes from Guinea, Senegal and Mali.

The groundnut requires a minimum temperature of 24 °C and a minimum rainfall of 750mm. After 3 to 4 years the soil is usually bereft of anymore useful nutrients and unless farmers use fertiliser they usually leave it to lie fallow.

Just before the end of the rainy season it is groundnut harvesting time. The plants themselves are uprooted and laid on raised platforms to dry out. Once dried out the plant is thrashed to release the nuts. They are then winnowed in spinning passoires which are rotating cylinders with holes in or meshed panniers. The nuts are then weighed, graded and transported to various collection points around The Gambia.

Local Nut Consumption:
The local name for peanuts is gerte. Groundnuts are available wholesale in the food market or in little bags by ladies on the street, offered in a variety of styles, including roasted, salted, sugar-coated, and sometimes boiled. They are also sold in small tomato pot sizes for about D5.00 per pot. Groundnut shells are used for fertilizer—you can witness the mounds and mounds of groundnut refuse on the way to Banjul, which are sometimes free for the taking. Unfortunately, the up-country farmers who need the shells the most simply have no way of transporting the mounds up the river.



Historical Development:
Its development as a cash crop export came about as a result of the fashionable use of soap in Europe in the 19th century. (peanuts being soaps raw material at the time).

In 1830 a total of 100 baskets was harvested which grew to 8,636 tonnes in 1848. By the 1850s groundnut production composed 2/3 of the colony's export total. New strains were introduced such as such as the Rufisque / Rio Fresco.

In 1903, in order to prevent growers from eating their seed-nuts, the British Government stepped in to store, subsidise and distribute  the groundnut crop. In 1921 the British Government decided on a change of policy and established the Department of Agriculture followed by foreign advisers to organise seed storage as well as the establishment of the Gambia Co-operative Union (GCU).

Following the drought of the early 1960s higher world prices of the commodity as well as good harvests assisted the country after its independence in 1965.

In 1973 the Gambia Produce Marketing Board (GPMB) took over the management of the crop by setting up collection depots, selling low-cost fertilizers, buying points. Barges along the river transported the groundnuts down from the up-country regions to Banjul. Farmers were able to obtain credit from the Gambia Commercial & Development Bank.

GPMB was later bankrupted and sold off to a company called Alimenta S.A. in 1993 who re-named it the Gambia Groundnut Corporation. In 1999 the government shut down the company by presidential decree and it came under government ownership. In July, 2008, (GIEPA) on behalf of the Government of The Gambia invited tenders from consultants for the valuation and technical assessment of the GGC prior to its intended privatisation.

GGC Details:
The Premier Agro Oils Groundnut Industrial Complex Ltd (PAOGL) located at the Denton Bridge, the GAMCO pressing plant operations.

Shelling Capacity
   
Denton Bridge: Tonnes Per Day:
Installed capacity 480 tonnes
Achieved capacity 300 tonnes
HPS production 60 tonnes
   
Kaur Plant Per day
Installed capacity 720
Achieved capacity 200
Number of Employees
Permanent 138
Seasonal 85
Daily rated 48


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