Innovating in agriculture in rural Gambia

A PACD success story

August 17, 2022

Tractors and labour saving devices ready for deployment to rural communities as part of the Programme for Accelerated Community Development (PACD)

Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

Rural infrastructure is needed across many sectors in The Gambia. As one of the pillars for sustainable economic growth, a general awareness of this need, especially for agricultural productivity, cannot be understated. The Gambia’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture, which contributes to 18% of its GDP according to the 2020 Budget of the Government of The Gambia. Without mechanization, productivity and efficiency have historically been very low. During consultations with rural communities across the country, the requirement for labour-saving devices to boost agricultural productivity was highlighted specifically in reference to the impact that these devices can have on the quality of life and economic empowerment of the respective communities. It is estimated according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN specialized agency that champions efforts to defeat hunger, that Africa overall has less than two tractors per 1,000 hectares of cropland. There are 10 tractors per 1,000 hectares in South Asia and Latin America.

Selection of communities

Selected based on first-hand information from field visits, expertise gained from stakeholder interaction and an understanding of the sequence of development in the rural areas, 19 communities were presented with 19 tractors and associated accessories (including disc ploughs, harrows, and trailers) to support agricultural labour load, time and cost for improved productivity.

Many of these farming communities have endured years of back-breaking work and inefficiencies fuelled by rain-dependent agriculture and post-harvest losses that had them trapped in chronic poverty. The distribution of tractors and implements under the auspices of the Programme for Accelerated Community Development (PACD) seeks to bridge the gap between traditional farming, anchored by physical labour, and more technologically advanced approaches by providing these communities with modern farming equipment. As a show of gratitude for the tractor and accessories sent to his community, one of the beneficiaries had this to say:

“My name is Luba DL Mendy, the current Village Development Committee (VDC) Chairperson for Brikamaba village at Lower Fulladou West District in the Central River Region of The Gambia. The Programme for Accelerated Community Development (PACD) has positively impacted my community as we were given a brand-new Tractor, with a Trailer and Ploughing Equipment. This has uplifted the people in the surrounding villages in terms of reducing their workload on the farms."

Luba D.L. Mendy, VDC Chairperson for Brikamaba village

Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

"My community, Brikama Ba and the surrounding villages are situated close to the Jahally Pacharr Rice Field, which is the centre of agricultural activities in The Gambia. Ploughing and other farming operations have been a great challenge for us in the past especially as we do not have access to labour-saving devices.  The Tractor was provided to us, through the PACD towards the end of the year in 2021, which was past the rice farming season. However, the community is using the Tractor’s trailer to create revenue earmarked for village development by transporting gravel and sand to construction sites which are deposited in the bank account of the VDC to ensure sustainability of the asset and future community development.  

Youths from the communities are also participating in the mining and transport of the sand or gravel which is providing a source of youth employment. This has provided an alternative source of earnings to the youths of Brikamaba and the surrounding villages thereby minimising the dependency ratio in the region. Currently, we generated about GMD42,000.00 ($780,67) and the prospects are exciting. This year we are looking forward to the rainy season which is forecasted around June/July and the communities are very excited and looking forward to using the tractor. We have hired a tractor operator who is being paid a monthly salary.”


Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

SDGs impacted

Increasing the productivity, ownership and revenue from agriculture will have an impact on similar SDGs to that of water. Specifically SDGs 1, 2, 8 and 10.

Community corporations proposed under an Institutional Framework will also assist in meeting these SDGs. Agricultural Equipment Management Committees (AEMCs) on the other hand, provide the means to hire out and monitor fleets of agricultural machinery in the communities with each AEMC member trained on how to manage the assets. AEMCs create transparency and efficiency in the hired tractors by connecting farmers at each stage of the process. This makes farming more secure, efficient, and profitable for all stakeholders involved. Farmers are made to pay part of their sales as commission to the AEMCs, support regular maintenance of the assets, and ensure that they are utilised properly. 

Crowning glory

One important niche to consider is public-private partnerships (PPPs). Engaging in PPPs will accelerate the modernisation of the agriculture sector and deliver multiple benefits that can contribute to the attainment of sustainable agriculture. PPPs within the farming sector as part of the Programme for Accelerated Community Development are attractive for three main reasons: 

  1. Potential to leverage financing to supplement both public financing and official development assistance (ODA). 
  2. Risk sharing through which the barriers to entry for the private sector can be lowered
  3. Innovation and market access 

It is therefore highly recommended that the private sector be incentivized to invest in mechanization of agriculture in The Gambia through tax waivers and smart subsidies among others. Successful mechanization will be key to tackling significant challenges in rural communities, from food insecurity to rampant rural unemployment. This will most certainly be beneficial to everyone involved in the agriculture sector in the long run.

PACD presentation on visit to Dakar

Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

About the PACD - During the height of the pandemic which wreaked havoc on the social and economic lives of Gambians as it did across the globe, the Government of The Gambia piloted the Programme for Accelerated Community Development Programme(PACD). The PACD is a UNDP model designed to revitalize and transform the economic wellbeing of all Gambians especially those in hard-to-reach communities.  PACD’s overall goal is to reduce the persistent disparities between urban and rural areas by improving access to basic services including potable drinking water, electricity, road infrastructure and food security.