• Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa and takes the shape of a sliver of land 15-80km wide and extending more than 400km from the Atlantic Ocean. One-third of its total land area is below 10 metres above sea-level, and 10-20% of its land is seasonably or diurnally flooded, which makes the Gambian population of 2.1 million extremely vulnerable to climate change and rising seas.
• UN Environment and the government of Gambia have launched the country’s largest adaptation project, which aims to develop a sustainable natural resource-based economy.
• The main approaches of the project are to restore degraded forests and farmland; establish ecologically sustainable businesses; develop ‘home-gardens’ to diversify food and income sources; and integrate adaptation actions into four sectoral policies.
• The consequences of climate change in Gambia are stark. Climate projections point to more erratic rainfall, and droughts and floods have already been intensifying, causing crop yields to fall in many areas.
• The agricultural sector is threatened because it is heavily rain-dependent and employs 44% of the country’s workforce, providing two-thirds of household income. Climate predictions for West Africa in 2020 suggest possible reductions of yields by 50% from rainfed agriculture.
• Many households in rural areas of Gambia already experience a “hunger season” between July and September, during which food stocks are low.
• The risk is compounded because falling crop yields are forcing rural households to extract resources unsustainably from forest ecosystems, which degrades ecosystem services. Forest cover in Gambia has shrunk from 80% in the 1940s to around 42% in 2001.