|L-R: Info minister Bala Garba Jahumpa, Finance minister Abdou Kolley, IFAD WCA Director Ides de Willebois, and Agriculture minister Solomon Owens/PHOTO/m.e.NJIE|
Poverty is highest in rural-Gambia where 73.9 percent (%) people live in poverty compared to 32.7% in urban-Gambia. In 2011, Kuntaur and Janjanbureh local government areas in the central river regions (CRR north and south), like the 2003 Integrated Household Survey (IHS) have the highest poverty rates with 79 and 73.2 percent respectively.
This disturbing statistics compelled Mr. Abdou Touray, programme specialist poverty and MDGs UN Development Programme (UNDP) to say The Gambia will not meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) of halving extreme poverty if efforts are not accelerated, considering the historical trends and modest reduction in poverty levels in the tiny West African nation of less than 2 million people.
With three years to the MDGs target date of 2015, Mr. Touray, who was speaking on behalf of the UNDP Resident Coordinator Ms Chinwe Diké at the 7thRegional Forum for IFAD-Funded Projects held in The Gambia (Nov. 12-15, 2012) said: “The 2010 IHS in The Gambia shows that 48% of the population is living below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day and when US$1.00 per day is used, 36.7% are poor.”
This shows slight decline from its 58% rate in 2003, he added.
Several poverty studies have been conducted in the Gambia with each study adopting a different methodology but in all the studies, overall poverty and food poverty were used to estimate the head count index.
The first poverty study conducted in 1992 revealed in terms of overall poverty, 31% of the population were poor; 33.1% of the population in urban areas were food poor as compared to 54% in rural areas.
The second poverty study in 1998 shows a significant increase in overall poverty from 31% to 69%. It also showed a huge difference between the populations in different localities, as 60% of the population in rural areas were poor compared to only 13% of those living in urban areas.
A third study in 2003 puts the poverty head count index at 58% with the likelihood of “being poor” higher in households in rural areas. The proportion ranges from 34% for Banjul and Kanifing combined, 56% in other urban areas and 67.8% for predominantly rural areas.
|Gambian farmers are the cornerstone of the economy, yet they are the poorest/RICE GROWERS IN LOWER RIVER REGION|
Like in 1992 and 1998, overall poverty in 2003 was also higher in local government areas that are predominantly rural compared to urban settlements in the greater Banjul area.
The current government is presiding over a major increase in poverty, as a second poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP II) published in 2006 by the National Planning Commission, indicated that 68% of rural Gambians are poor while 40% of the poor lives in urban areas.
During a press conference on Nov. 12, 2012, Gambia’s Finance Minister Abdou Kolley, who said it’s a “probability”, admitted the country may achieve or may not achieve goal number one of the MDGs, eradicating extreme poverty by 2015.
He argues that the Government is employing all efforts to achieve this “all important” MDGs target, citing efforts to boost agricultural production and productivity, a sector that employs a large percentage of the country’s labour force.
The agriculture sector also contributes significantly to Gambia’s gross domestic product, GDP (the total value of goods and services that a country produces in a year).
However, majority of Gambia’s 1.7 million people, the smallest country in mainland Africa, are entangled in poverty regardless of the numerous reports of “robust economic growth” over the years.
Written by Modou S. Joof