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FEATURE STORYJune 20, 2024

Transforming The Gambia's Agriculture: From Subsistence to Market-Oriented Farming

Modern irrigation system in the Gambia

Modern central pivot system procured by Bakaf Farm with GIRAV financial support. Photo: Aifa Fatimata Niane/World Bank


  • The Gambia’s agriculture sector is undergoing an ambitious modernization.
  • A World Bank project is supporting 19 small and medium-sized enterprises to expand their operations.
  • The country’s agriculture sector is already seeing results in the shape of modern infrastructure, improved services, and more jobs.

Jongfolo Korta looks at her rice field with satisfaction. She is among the many small farmers in the Eastern region of Jahally, in the Gambia, where agriculture is thriving.

“I’ve applied fertilizer to the rice field, and now I have ploughing services using tractors that are available at the right time. So, I’m optimistic that this year my harvest will increase,” she said.

Like many others in the Gambia, Jongfolo has relied on rice production for over five decades. She and many others are experiencing the advantages of the country’s transition from subsistence farming to a more productive and competitive agriculture sector with increased surplus to sell making it more market-oriented. This drive has been supported by the World Bank’s Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV).

A component of the project competitively selected 19 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) out of 127 applicants and provided them with additional financing. In total, the project provided $3.9 million, while the SMEs themselves contributed a total of $2.6 million from privately mobilized capital and their own funding. The overall investment was used by the SMEs to finance infrastructure and equipment so that they can modernize and expand agribusiness operations.

If the problem of agriculture is solved, food security will be guaranteed.
Kemo Cham, CEO and founder of Sabiji Farm
Ploughing a farm in the Gambia

Critical services like ploughing being provided by Maruo Farms with GIRAV financing support. Photo: Amadou Bah/GIRAV.

Modernizing agriculture infrastructure and irrigation
Modernization in the Gambia’s agriculture sector is evident through the development of new infrastructure, for example, improved irrigation systems, agro-processing platforms, and agro-logistic centers to serve as marketing infrastructure. These progressions are used on farms across the country to enhance better irrigations systems and machinery.

Bakaf Farm, located at Bantajang village in Foni, Bondali District, stands as a testament. This small enterprise which produces onions has used the investment to upgrade its irrigation and equipment.

Bakaf Farm’s managing director, Sulayman Cessay, exemplifies a spirit of entrepreneurship and dedication to agribusiness. Thanks to the GIRAV project, Cessay decided to invest in ramping up his onion production.

“We‘ve obtained new machines from this grant. With it, we’ve been able to expand our production by an additional 16 hectares. We are now expecting an additional 448 tons of onions from this year’s harvest,” said M. Sulayman Cessay proudly.

Not only has the new investment boosted the farm’s annual production, it has also created work for more than 100 local women.

In a similar vein, Sabiji Poultry Farm in Sukuta has made significant investments to modernize and expand its infrastructure. With support from the project, Kemo Cham, CEO and founder of the farm, built three modern poultry battery units to house more egg-laying chickens and a feeding mill.

"I saw the advertisement from the Ministry of Agriculture about a grant to be awarded to young Gambians for agriculture projects. Thanks to the matching grant from GIRAV, we have expanded from having 7,000 chickens to now 60,000,” said Kemo Cham.

Improving access to inputs and services
Nestled in the heart of Central River Region, Maruo Farms has its roots intertwined with the local rice farmers' fortunes. With support from the World Bank project, the farm acquired a fleet of modern ploughing and milling machines that they use to provide services for other farms.

Kalipha Jammeh, CEO and founder of Burong Wolal Ltd., a private youth owned rice production and processing enterprise, is happy with the services he is getting from Maruo Farm.  To help lighten their financial load, farmers can pay Maruo Farm with rice after they have harvested their paddy field.

“Before, due to lack of machines, we spent two months managing six hectares of rice production. Now, with machines and tractors from Maruo Farms, our production is much faster,” said Kalipha Jammeh. “And it’s good to have someone provide these services because we don’t have to worry about maintenance and other costs.”

To help measure results, the project has equipped extension workers with tablets and training to record data through specific applications. GIRAV is also leveraging digital tools to connect farmers with all the businesses and other institutions involved in the distribution of seeds and fertilizer.

To further enhance the Gambia’s agribusiness sector, the program is building two logistics facilities in Wassu, in Sami District, and Macca Farafenni, in Upper Baddibou District. These centers will offer crucial services for farmers and entrepreneurs such as sorting and packing produce, dry and cold storage, and transport.

Since women play an important role in the Gambia’s agriculture, GIRAV will scale up its efforts from a previous World Bank project which has helped 21 women-led agribusinesses with equipment such as solar-powered water pumps and drip irrigation systems. The GIRAV project hopes to expand this and reach a total of 40 agribusiness farms within the next two years.

The project has also helped increase the adoption of climate-smart agriculture technologies such as improved vegetable seeds and drip irrigation to build the country’s resilience, boost food and nutrition security.

Kemo Cham from Sabiji Farm emphasized the importance of agriculture for his country: “If the problem of agriculture is solved, food security will be guaranteed.”

However, in the Gambia, agriculture means more than that. The sector contributes around 20% of the country’s GDP and employs almost half of the country’s labor force. To unlock its full potential, the Gambia is transforming its agriculture sector which is currently dominated by subsistence-oriented rainfed crops and livestock. The GIRAV project support to small and medium agribusiness is a step in the right direction.


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