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Dry Sky Worries Gambian Farmers as Rainless Streak Continues

Farmers across the country are scared and worried as the streak of no rain continues.

The rainy season officially starts in The Gambia in June. But in the Upper River Region (URR) and some parts of Central River Region (CRR), the two main farming areas, there has not been rain for the past two weeks. In other parts including the Kombos, there has been nothing more than just some drizzles since the beginning of July.

“I have already ploughed my land but until now there is no rain,” said Lamin Fatty, a maize farmer in Wuli in URR. “I decided to sow my maize seeds and leave everything in the hands of God. The good thing is that corn may survive up to a month without water, but this cannot apply to groundnut or other crops.”

According to Fatty, many other farmers were already giving up on groundnut cultivation because of the weak rainfall pattern. “I spoke to one woman yesterday and she has given up on cultivating her groundnut because August is almost here and it might be late for groundnut cultivation.”

“The rain has not been coming the way it should and we are all worried,” Malamin Danso, a farmer residing in Sandu Kuraw in URR) told The Chronicle. “Some farmers have sown their millets and rain has not been coming for two weeks now. Some have their farms already but they couldn’t sow crops due to lack of rain while most people are yet to sow groundnut. They are having their seeds but they are afraid to sow them.”

According to him, less than 40% percent of farmers in his community have sown their groundnuts in anticipation of consistent rainfall, while 95% percent have sown millet.

Famara Sarr from the North Bank Region also told The Chronicle that his region was facing similar problem of rainless streak, saying it last rained there a week ago.

The seasonal rainfall forecast released by the Department of Water Resources earlier this year advised farmers ahead of the rainy season that there’d be late onset and abnormal rainfall quantity especially in July.

“We have made an advanced warning and even at the end of June we sent an update. We expect much of the rains to come around August and towards the end of the year. We’ve discussed with the agricultural extension workers and we also advised the farmers to go in for short duration crop varieties,” Tijani Bojang, the spokesperson of the department told The Chronicle.

“We are not expecting much in July so they should consider going in for short cycle crops. That’s what we advised. The forecast is based on July, August and September which constitute 80% of precipitation in The Gambia. So if these three months failed or you don’t get much that means the season fails.”

The Department of Water Resources expected 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.

The Focal-Point for Action Against Desertification Project, Malang Jatta said desertification, which is a major contributor to the current situation, is a threat to national food security.

“Insufficient rainfall deters the farmers from cultivating their crops which also impact on the government because it will force the government to declare crop failure. As a consequence, the government has to spend more on imported foodstuffs.”

He challenged the population to embark on three planting exercises across the country to halt this trend. “The level of desertification across the country is high and threatening.”

Karamo Minteh, the Regional Director of Agriculture in URR said both farmers and the government are worried about the weak rainfall pattern.

“We are worried knowing that agriculture is the backbone of our economy. As I am speaking here, the rain has not been coming. It’s worrying.”

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