The latest report of the International Monetary Fund on The Gambia has revealed that majority of Gambia’s 1.8 million people still lives in poverty despite an increment in primary school enrolment and completion, as well as an improvement in immunization, child and maternal mortality.
With the reported “robust economic growth” over the years, the latest survey on the country’s poverty situation states that the 58 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
However, the reports suggests that the government’s recent initiative to provide greater support to agriculture is expected to contribute to progress in reducing the incidence of poverty by boosting incomes for the rural poor.
Again, with the launching of a new poverty reduction strategy, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) which places further emphasis on agriculture as well as investment in infrastructure, the IMF noted that the poverty gap in the country is expected to reduce.
However, the poverty levels in the Gambia have been on the rise since 1992, from 30 per cent of households living below the poverty level to 58 per cent in 2008 and since then there is no significant reduction.
Several poverty studies have been conducted in the Gambia with each study adopting a different methodology but in all the studies, overall poverty and food poverty were used to estimate the head count index.
The first poverty study conducted in 1992 revealed that in terms of overall poverty, 31 per cent of the population were poor; 33.1 per cent of the population in the urban areas were food poor compared to 54 per cent in the rural areas.
The second poverty study conducted in 1998 showed that overall poverty was significantly increasing from 31 per cent in 1992 to 69 per cent by 1998. The study also showed huge differences between the populations living in different localities, as 60 per cent of the population in the rural areas were poor compared to only 13 per cent of those living in the urban areas.
The third poverty study was carried out in 2003. In this study, the poverty head count index was 58 per cent with the likelihood of ‘being poor’ higher in households located in rural areas; the proportion ranging from 34% for Banjul and Kanifing combined, 56 per cent in other urban areas and 67.8 per cent for predominantly rural areas.
Like in 1992 and 1998, overall levels in 2003 were also higher in local government areas that are predominantly rural compared to the urban settlements in the Greater Banjul Area. The head count index reduced to 58 per cent in 2003 and overall poverty levels decreased in all regions except CRR North and South. In 2003, CRR had the highest poverty rates compared to NBR, LRR and URR, which had the highest rates in 1998.
The MDG Status Report for 2007 indicates that “the country is far from achieving MDG target of 1”, which is to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.
The report of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper II (PRSP II), published by the National Planning Commission, indicates that 68 per cent of rural population and 40 per cent of urban population live in poverty.
Despite government’s efforts to eradicate poverty in the country, the menace is escalating as all recent surveys and reports had affirmed that the current status of poverty is increasing.