In a developing country like The Gambia where agriculture employs 70% and more of the population, growth in this sector is a necessary prerequisite for uplifting the rural population from abject poverty. Agriculture is underperforming because of government neglect despite claims that agriculture is its top priority. As agricultural production continues to decline and market access contracts, as has been the case in The Gambia since 1994, poverty in general and rural poverty in particular will continue to rise.
International market access actually declined precipitously after the Denton Bridge facility that processed groundnut produced was seized by the Jammeh regime from Alimenta SA, and that combined with overall decline in agricultural production made matters worse for both the national treasury and the rural population.
Based on figures provided by the Ministry of Finance and economic Affairs, the agriculture sector is projected to grow on average 0.5% annually to 2015 which can only be described as moderate to poor level of growth, especially for a population that is growing at an average of 2% a year. Growth in the sector must be at least match the growth rate in the population for the level of poverty to remain unchanged.
Agriculture has been in decline since 1994 because the Jammeh regime has not invested resources that reflect the high priority it claims it accords agriculture. Investment in agricultural research has declined correspondingly resulting in failure to develop new and appropriate varieties of seeds (drought resistant varieties in particular) to increase production. Extension services in support of farmers to promote good farming practises have been neglected and poorly staffed thus reducing the number of extension visits to farmers.
Growing evidence have shown that investments in agriculture do not match the rhetoric of the Jammeh regime of "grow what you eat, and eat what you grow", and which is reflected in the budget figures. For example, the budget of the Office of the President is three times the size of the entire budget outlay for the Ministry of Agriculture, a sector that employs 70% of Gambians and contribute over 20% to GDP. To reduce poverty, especially rural poverty, these figures would have to be reversed, the chances of which are slim as long as Jammeh is at the helm.