For many years, imports of food produce in the Gambia have dominated the markets, be it for hotels, restaurants or road-side stalls. In 2020, with borders closed and international freight routes shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, imports of many food items came to a halt.
While this was going on, rural farmers, the majority being women operating in communal horticultural gardens, were in the middle of the harvest season for onions – a favourite vegetable of many Gambians.
The women farmers were faced with a sudden crisis - ‘lumos,’ which were the local, weekly markets had been suspended, and transport links fell apart due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This meant that the farmers had nowhere to sell their produce and a complete breakdown of market opportunities.
In response, SheTrades Gambia and the Youth Empowerment Project of the International Trade Centre, together with partners, addressed the situation by identifying onion importers left without stock and agreeing to buy the local produce. The project teams then successfully created direct linkages between women’s gardens across the Gambia and the buyers by hiring transporters and associations to move the produce.
Thanks to this, the women farmers benefitted in several ways: many learnt about buyer requirements, including packaging, and some used scales for the first time to weigh their produce, getting a better understanding how prices are determined, and how they can negotiate with buyers.
“SheTrades has removed me from a hole,” says Jonma Manneh Jukadou, a farmer from Dasilameh. “The middlemen were exploiting us with low prices. I want to thank the project for the intervention. I am very happy and motivated to grow more onions next year.”
Despite the challenges, including sceptical farmers, the International Trade Centre and its partners were able to facilitate the sourcing of 173.6 tonnes of horticultural produce and generate an income for mostly women farmers of around $86,000 during a particular time of need.
The OPEC Fund for International Development and the Enhanced Integrated Framework are funding the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Gambia project. The European Union Trust Fund is funding the Youth Empowerment Project in The Gambia.