The growing of vegetables in rural Gambia is a major activity after the end of each rainy season. It is a common sight to see outskirts of rural areas to be dotted with vegetable gardens controlled mostly by women. These gardens serve as important sources of supplemental income for households, particularly for households that depend largely on agricultural income. These gardens are also important players in the local food supply since they produce most of the vegetables consumed in the country. Yet they face major hurdles such as getting access to key inputs such as seeds.
What is also notable about these women horticultural activities is the limited support they receive from the government. In fact, most of the support they receive are from NGOs, donors and other private initiatives. The result is that most of these mostly women gardeners who grow the vegetables are constantly financially constrained. The major challenges are the following:
- Seeds: The seeds costs of most vegetables grown are significant. The recent inflation has worsened this issue and increased prices by over 25%.
- Fencing: Most livestock are left to roam and forage during the dry season (animals are only restrained during the rainy season). This creates a major problem for vegetable growing in rural Gambia. Livestock that breach a fence can wipe out a whole vegetable field within hours.
- Irrigation: Vegetable growing is best done between November and May, when the climate is relatively cool in the Sahel. Unfortunately, this is outside of the rainy season and therefore some sort of irrigation is needed. Some villages are lucky to be provided with solar-powered irrigation system by NGOs. The unlucky ones have to manually draw water from wells, which limits their garden sizes and potentially reduces their yield due to water stress.
How Beneficiary Villages are Chosen
The targeted villages are chosen on the basis that they have been operating a vegetable garden for at least the past 2 growing seasons (virtually all the villages have been operating them far longer). This selection criterion was chosen to ensure that the seeds provided would go towards immediate use in horticultural activities without any worries that their use would be constrained by other missing inputs such as lack of water or suitable site or experienced gardeners. So, there is very little chance that donated seeds would not be used as intended. Monitoring reports from the 2022 campaign confirmed seeds usage as intended in 97% of the beneficiaries.
These horticultural gardens are economically viable since the financial returns far exceed the cost. It should be noted however that not all gardeners fully market their produce since a portion goes towards home use. However, given that vegetables consumed at home meet essential household needs and reduce the burden of obtaining those food items from the market, it is easy enough to see that the economic returns of these horticultural activities are quite high. Many of these villagers have well organized structures to facilitate their continued operations despite the difficulties they face. For example, the gardeners in many villages work together in marketing their produce at markets to manage transportation and other logistics costs. Many villagers have organizations that allow gardeners to contribute towards future joint seeds– though these are hardly ever sufficient. Kani Kunda village in Sabach Sanjal, which was one of the beneficiaries of the 2022 campaign, is a good example of such well-organized village.
Our first major campaign to assist vegetable gardens in the country started in 2022. Highlights include:
- Regions covered: All administrative regions of the country
- Village gardens reached: 62
- Farmers reached: 15,000
- Total number of individuals impacted: 120,000
- Regions covered: 4
- Village gardens covered: 15
- Farmers reached: 4500
- 3500 seedlings distributed
|Number of Women Farmers in Village Garden
Given the success of our previous year campaign, Seeds for Prosperity is embarked on another campaign this season. Our target is to reach 80 village gardens across the whole country.
- 80 Village gardens
- 20,000 Farmers