main cash crop of The Gambia is groundnuts.
The country is primarily a agricultural country with
80 percent of the population of just over 2 million
depending on agriculture for its food and cash income.
The farming economy is the only means of income creation
for the majority of rural families
most whom live below the poverty line.
agricultural sector is the most important sector of
the Gambian economy, contributing 32% of the gross domestic
product, providing employment and income for 80% of
the population, and accounting for 70% of the country's
foreign exchange earnings. It remains the prime sector
to raise income levels, for investments, to improve
food security and reduce levels of poverty.
About 54% of the land area in The Gambia is good quality
arable land (5,500 square kilometres), out of which
about 39% (1,880 sq. km) is currently farmed by the
41,000 subsistence farmers in The Gambia. About 810
sq. km. (81,000 hectares) are irrigable, all in the
(CRD) Central River Division (56%) and (URD) Upper River
Division (44%). About 2,300 hectares of this potential
area, are currently under irrigation. Crop production
is quite diversified. Cash crops such as cotton and
groundnuts are grown in the up-land areas and rice in
lowland, riverine areas (rain-fed swamps or under irrigation)
for both subsistence and cash. Other principal subsistence
cereal crops grown are maize, sorghum and millet. When
the sector is looked at by gender 51% are women.
is largely semi-arid with one wet season followed by
a seven month dry season. The rainy season commences
from June and continues to October. Average daily temperatures
are 28.2° C in the dry season and 28° C in the rainy
season. Low levels of soil moisture prevailing in September
and October, can adversely effect crop harvests.
Based on the rainfall pattern, there are 3 major agro-ecological
zones in Gambia namely Sahelian, Sudan-Sahelian and
Sudan-Guinean zones. The Sahelian Zone has a
Sahelian micro-climate with open dry season savannah
vegetation. Rainfall is unpredictable and less than
600-mm total annually, with an effective crop-growing
season of less than 79 days. Soils have low water retention
capacity and this is a high-risk area for long-duration
crops. Thus early maturing, short-duration and drought
tolerant crops are cultivated in this zone. Cassava,
sesame and cowpea are the main produce with millet grown
only occasionally because of the risk that birds would
consume their crop.
The Sudan-Sahelian Zone lies within the 600 to 900 millimeter
rainfall area. With a longer growing season, 79 to 119
days, the up-land areas are well suited to groundnut,
cotton and sorghum. The flood plains along The Gambia
River and associated lowland valley systems are an excellent
rice growing catchment under tidal swamp irrigation.
The Sudan-Guinean Zone lies within the 900 to 1200 mm
rainfall isohyets. The growing season is 120-150 days
and in normal seasons full crop water requirements are
met throughout the growing season. In some lowland areas
the long dry season results in increased salinisation
of The Gambia
River and an emphasis on saline tolerant rice varieties.
The principal crops cultivated in this agro-ecology
are early millet, groundnut, rice (rain-fed upland and
lowland, irrigated lowland, mangrove and mangrove salt-tolerant),
maize, vegetable, sesame and cowpea.
Social Organisation of Production:
from pump irrigated rice (mostly controlled by men),
traditional lowland swamp or river-bank rice
is mainly women's responsibility, but with variation
among ethnic groups, particularly in terms of control
Among the Mandinka
both kamangyango and maruo rice production is carried
out by women farmers. The female sinkiro head controls
the maruo rice. Men rarely help women with their crops
and women return the favour and do not assist men with
their upland crops, even during the busy weeding and
community women are the principal rice growers. The
majority of maruo rice is controlled by a male sinkiro
Among the Wolof
who have only begun growing rice in the past two decades,
the gender division of labour and control of the rice
crop tends to be more flexible. Rice is still mainly
grown by women but men are likely to contribute. The
maruo rice crop tends to be managed by the male sinkiro
Agriculture is communally organized among Gambian farmers.
It is therefore important to develop a basic understanding
of Gambian rural families in analyzing the farming systems
that have developed over the years.
A family unit consisting of dwellings and a private
yard. Smaller sub-divisions of the compound
are the Dabada and Sinkiros.
Dabada is defined as the farm production unit in which
two or more individuals (within the same compound) cultivate
farms, outside the communal farm, for their own individual
Sinkiros refers to the cooking and consumption group
within or outside the compound. Sinkiros provide basis
for the compound’s organisation of storage, processing
and consumption of foods. The women in the Sinkiro group
are responsible for cooking on rotational basis. In
many cases, the dabada unit coincides with the Sinkiro,
as members not only work together, but may also eat
Two types of farm units are common: the communal farm
called Maruo and the individual or private farm known
as Kamanyango. Maruo consists of a set of fields on
which all members of the compound unit, usually men
and women separately, cultivate together to provide
the bulk of food required for the subsistence of the
compound members. The compound head makes allocation
of food and produce from the granary to each participating
family according to its needs. Kamanyango farm: Individual
members (male or female) of the compound can clear land
and create private farms (Kamanyango) on which they
work to produce food and other crops to provide for
the extra needs of their immediate families and to supplement
the main portion received from the central pool. The
Compound head may assign certain days in the week or
hours of the day for communal work, to ensure that both
the interest of compound and those of its individual
members are catered for.
In The Gambia, each village has an identifiable area
of land that falls within the jurisdiction of its own
headman (Alkalo). The land is usually not legally registered.
Families or individuals in a village establish claim
over a piece of land by tracing their decent, more often
patri-linearly to the first settlers.
The Alkalo has the power to allocate land to
compounds in the village.
Any compound head has the right to clear un-claimed
land within the village’s area of jurisdiction. The
piece of land is thereafter held in perpetuity by the
compound that first cleared it. The inheritance laws
provide for the transfer of compound land to the next
eldest male member of the family in case the compound
head dies; thus stabilizing the degree of land fragmentation
that is allowed to occur.
There are 3 main avenues for a woman to obtain land
(alluvial rice land or swamp): (i) through her spouse,
the fields so acquired have usually been worked by her
mother in-law; (ii) the compound can give pieces of
land to daughters as part of their marriage dowries,
in which case, this plot of land is usually removed
from that of the original compound owners; and (iii)
rice land can be acquired on loan from friends in other
compounds who have excess land. The system is thus flexible
enough to supply land, especially rice land, required
by the women of a farming village.