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.
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.
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
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 &
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.
The Premier Agro Oils Groundnut Industrial Complex Ltd
(PAOGL) located at the Denton Bridge, the GAMCO pressing
Tonnes Per Day: