This year, the rainy season has been very inconsistent until this past August when the rains began to fall regularly. However, the rainy season often ends in October, causing some farmers to worry whether their green-looking crops will make it or fail.
At most farms in the countryside, crops are doing pretty well including groundnut, coos, millet and maize. But the early halt of rains will leave crops immature, according to an expert.
“Crops are doing well so far despite late rains and we are hopeful at the moment. All the groundnut farms are doing well and some have started flowering. We are hopeful that all the crops will be fine if the rainy season doesn’t end soon. If the rains stop soon, that may be very bad for our crops and it could lead to a massive disaster,” Alakali Barrow in Wuli West told The Chronicle.
In Hella Kunda, the situation is relatively the same. According to one farmer, the groundnuts have started rooting and this is a good sign.
“We are expecting that it will be a very fruitful season because crops are all green and developing fast. The groundnut, millets, coos, maize are all doing good. The coos have also produced grains already,” Basiru Krubally, Alaklo of Hella Kunda in the Upper River Region, told The Chronicle.
He expressed fears that the potential early end of the rains will lead to poor yields especially for those farmers who planted their crops later than most.
“We are still scared though because going by our normal rain pattern, it may likely end next month. This wouldn’t be good for us,” he worriedly expressed.
Highlighting the consequence of a failed farming season, Krubally said hunger could strike as many of the farmers in that part of the country are exclusively dependent on coos and millets. Hence, they will not be in a position to buy rice as an alternate to the failed crops.
“If your millet, coos, groundnut and maize are not good, you must buy rice. If you don’t have money or have anyone who lives abroad to help you buy rice, there will be hunger. It’s not sustainable. But with a bumper harvest, you can be eating millet from one season to another,” he told The Chronicle.
Also in Karantaba, another farming community situated the Central River Region North, Ebrima Touray reiterated how good their crops are doing despite the late start of the rains.
“They will make it if the rains don’t abruptly stop. The groundnuts have started rooting and some have completed that process. We’re very much hopeful and we pray the rains continue.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Department of Water Resources, Tumani Bojang, told The Chronicle that the rainy season is expected to end in October.
“…the forecast is that the rains are expected to end in October… and in October we normally do not expect much precipitation, but the way the trend is it can go up to the end of September,” he said.
In July, Tumani told The Chronicle that they have issued an advanced warning to agricultural extension workers about the late start of rains and that the rainfalls were expected to end in October. By that warning, farmers were advised to go for short duration crop varieties.
The Department of Water Resources expects around 500 to 600 millimeters of rainfall for the three months combined – July, August and September – which is similar to that of last year which recorded about 700 millimeters.
Agriculture and climate change expert, Mama Sawaneh, told The Chronicle that any distortion in the rainfall pattern would have a significant effect on the output of the farmers.
“This impact is normally severe on the crops during a critical stage of the plants’ life cycle like flowering or milking period. This affects the quality of seeds or grains harvested resulting to poor harvest,” he indicated.
Sawaneh, who also lectures agriculture at the University of The Gambia (UTG), said the early cessation of rainfall at this time would affect the crops in that they will not mature the right way, causing a poor yield.
“The effect is that the farmers do not only lose the crops, but also all their money invested and time in the farming season. This would worsen the overall income status of the farmers and push them further into poverty.”
In terms of adaptation, Sawaneh advised farmers to seek expert advice before planting as well as what varieties of crops to cultivate based on the available information on patterns of rainfall.