HUNGER IN RURAL GAMBIA AS THE LEAN SEASON EXTENDS WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT WAITING FOR?

Abdoulie G. Dibba

Hunger and malnutrition are now the order of the day in rural Gambia as the HUNGER IN RURAL GAMBIAlean season extends this year as a result of the late rainfall.

This development was observed as this reporter toured the rural area in order to monitor and report on issues affecting the lives of people living there.

Every year, poor households in the rural area face the “Lean or hungry season,” a period of two to three months at the peak of the rains between July and September, when household food stocks are low or depleted.

While visiting the Lower River and North Bank regions, this reporter was informed by the farmers that even though their household food stocks have depleted, they are now resorting to selling their small ruminants and fowls to cover for their food needs.

Sainabou Ceesay, a housewife, said apart from disposing off her livestock, she is also selling vegetables like pumpkin, okra and bitter tomatoes just to make little money to buy cereals for consumption.

Madame Ceesay explained that because of the need for money to buy food such as rice, the crops they sell are not mature enough.

She said the late rains have made the situation worse as the cereal crops they depend on for their survival will not get mature early.

“Many poor rural households do not generate sufficient income from their farming activities to feed themselves and maintain a decent standard of living because of their inability to afford the required inputs,” said Modou Gaye.

He said if the farmers move away from subsistence farming and start earning sufficient income, they must engage in more productive and sustainable farming systems and that the Government and non-governmental organisations must come to their aid.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the food security situation in The Gambia is deteriorating and that today, a third of Gambia’s 1.8 million inhabitants are food insecure. It further states that about 200,000 people have already crossed the emergency threshold and need urgent food assistance and that across the country, 50,000 children are acutely malnourished, 8,000 of them in the highest category of severity.

“Despite major crises unfolding around the globe and in the region, the needs of vulnerable Gambians must not be overlooked. We are entering a critical season with risks of locust invasion, epidemics and floods where needs will increase,” highlighted the UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia.

She said coping capacities of Gambian communities have been challenged in recent years, with more frequent droughts and floods, adding that without timely support, they are going deeper into poverty with every shock.