Rice is a staple food crop grown and imported to The
Gambia, the base for most dishes. Grown in the rainy
season, it looks like grain before processing, which
involves pounding in a mortar with a pestle. There are
several varieties available at the market, usually costing
about (£0.60 pence) per standard cup.
Home Grown Variety:
The staple crop is grown in what is called a 'faro'
(rice paddy fields). The traditional type, grown on
the uplands and swamps long before the arrival of the
colonial powers, is short grained and it has been left
to women to cultivate this variety. It is cultivated
as a subsistence crop and a small amount sold as a cash
crop. Today, 2 varieties are grown widely in the Gambia
called ITA 306 and IET 3137.
The rest of the consumer market is satisfied via the
major importers of rice to West Africa.
History of Rice Production:
Traditionally they have used the banto faros in the
upland areas where the water from the river was not
too salty and the fields not too high to prevent their
fields from being flooded. It is during the rainy season
when the women plant the seedlings from the nurseries
to the paddy fields. At the end of the year the rice
crop was harvested and the seed separated from the husk
by various threshing techniques.
Between 1966 and 1969 a Mr. Lee led a Chinese (Taiwan)
agricultural team which introduced rice cultivation
via the method of irrigation on Janjanbureh Island (Georgetown).
This initial enthusiasm soon faded and the project ran
out of steam. This was followed by another Chinese team
(1974-1975) who set up base at the Sapu Rice Research
Station in the Central River Division.
In 1973 the Gambia Government started its Development
Project. In 1982 a rice irrigation project was started
at the Jahali and Pacharr Smallholder Rice Development
Fields involving 1,474 hectares in the McCarthy Island
Division. Two years later, in 1984, yielded its first
harvest. It proved a resounding success with rice yields
surpassing all expectations. The area generated 2 crops
a year averaging 17 tonnes per acre. This success has
yet to be replicated as it was unparalleled worldwide
at the time.
Other irrigation projects followed such as RIDEP (Rice
Irrigation Development Project) which was started in
1998, Small Scale Water Control Project (SSWC) in 1991,
Lowland Agricultural Development Project (LADEP), 1997.