The Gambia, which encompasses the smallest countries in West Africa, face severe challenges of high poverty rates (48.6%), food insecurity, youth unemployment and vulnerability to climate change. In order to fully explore the potential of the agricultural sector for economic expansion, employment, and food production, the Government of the Gambia is working with the Benin Songhai Centre to develop a functional agricultural water farming and young-entrepreneurs training system. This allows for increased agricultural productivity, raised incomes and to address food insecurity and youth unemployment.
The Gambia is a youthful nation with over 60% of its population under the age of 30 years. However, unemployment among the youth is highest (38.6% of youth are poor) and remains a major challenge. The agricultural sector, the most critical sector for the countries' economic expansion, food production and poverty reduction, only employs 20% of the employed youth.
Inspired by the Songhai model, a highly successful agro-industrial, organic and self-sufficient farming model launched in Benin in 1985, the Gambia is developing both a functional agricultural water farming system and a young-entrepreneurs training system. In line with Vision 2016 adopted by the President, the project puts a particular emphasis on youth employment and agricultural transformation through value addition and sustainable practices.
The project was developed following a knowledge exchange visit of the Gambia's Ministries of Youth and Agriculture into the Songhai Regional Centre Benin in 2014, allowing officials to study the center's integrated sustainable agricultural development strategy for employment creation and poverty reduction. Following cabinet’s approval of the mission report and recommendations for a replication of the development strategy commenced in 2015. 29 Gambian youth graduated successfully from a 6-month training in Benin and returned to Gambia to transfer their skills.
The establishment of a mother farm in Chamen/The Gambia was overseen by five technicians from Benin. Since August 2015, the center is operational and has trained 137 youth and currently enrolled 40 trainees (25 female &15 Male) as the fifth batch for the third year in 2017. Farming at the Gambia Songhai Initiative is fully organic and continues to be managed by foreign instructors and the youth instructors trained in Benin. A local team of instructors are prepared by the technical team from Benin for eventual takeover.
The center now operates diverse agricultural related activities such as market gardening, agroforestry, control poultry, free-range poultry, livestock (sheep, goats, and cattle), a feed mill and is currently working on the fish ponds which are almost reaching self-sufficiency. The center has commenced generating substantial funds for the above activities which are lodged in a bank for use once external support should cease.
For the past two years, the government of The Gambia has contributed substantial amounts in its national budget as counterpart contribution to the project/ initiative and has reaffirmed its strong commitment to further develop the initiative.
Songhai Regional Centre - Benin
The Government of the Gambia, the United Nations Development Programme joined by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the Youth Employment Project implemented by the International Trade Centre funded by the European Union.
Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture
- Supplying feeds to the layers in battery cage Supplying feeds to the layers in battery cage
- Garden crop production under thick grass mulch Garden crop production under thick grass mulch
- A cucumber plot in the GSI Thailand Zone A cucumber plot in the GSI Thailand Zone
- Feed production at the GSI modular feed mill Feed production at the GSI modular feed mill
- The Bull – a large ruminant product of GSI The Bull – a large ruminant product of GSI
- Trainees showing off cowpea harvest from the cash crop section Trainees showing off cowpea harvest from the cash crop section
- Raising Acacia seedlings for agroforestry Raising Acacia seedlings for agroforestry
- Application of AAA technique in a cassava plot at GSI, Chamen Application of AAA technique in a cassava plot at GSI, Chamen