Gambia forms a narrow strip of land 400 km long and 30 km wide along the Gambia river. More than 10% of the territory is covered by water. It is the smallest country in mainland Africa, with a population of less than 2 million people. A former British colony, Gambia has benefited from relative political stability since independence, apart from the 1994 coup, but this stability has not translated into prosperity.
The country remains one of the least developed in the world. Ranked 165 out of 186 in the Human Development Index, half the population lives on less than $2 a day. The malnutrition situation is considered "serious" as the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition was estimated at 10.1% in 2012 (WFP). Education is an issue: 29% of children do not attend school and only 46% of adults are literate. Women empowerment is promoted through numerous initiatives such as free girls' education.
Gambia's climate is largely tropical semi-arid. There is a hot and rainy season, normally from June until November, followed by a seven-month dry season with cooler temperatures. Agriculture is a very important sector of the economy, accounting for 20% of GDP and employing about 80% of the working population. However, only a sixth of the country's land is arable and with poor soil quality. Groundnuts are the primary cash crop and key export commodity. Rice and millets are the main staple crops. Many families live on fishing activities.
Gambia's economy is highly vulnerable to climate shocks like the 2011 drought which lead to harvest failure (GDP contracted by 4.4%; ref African economic outlook). Hence, farmers' resilience and adaptation to climate change becomes a priority research field.[ref: Yaffa 2013]
Gambia's agricultural research depends heavily on foreign aid and its impact on rural development and poverty reduction will be limited if government does not reinforce foreign investment and commit itself to rural development. (ASTI note).