Total agricultural researcher numbers in The Gambia rose by nearly 50 percent during 1991–2001. This was mainly due to the establishment of NARI in 1993, and the associated recruitment of additional staff to fulfill the institute’s broader research mandate compared with its predecessor DAR, combined with the establishment of the Faculty of Science and Agriculture at UTG. Despite this expansion, however, the country’s agricultural R&D expenditures actually contracted by more than half over the same period, largely because of the completion of the major World Bank-led initiative, ASP. ASP was funded by a World Bank loan and contributions from IFAD and the Gambian government. The project led to the creation of NARI, and provided substantial financial support for capital and operating infrastructure (such as building works, equipment, vehicles and training).
The completion of ASP in March of 1999 left the Gambian agricultural research sector in a bleak financial situation that is seriously affecting NARI in particular. NARI’s 2001 funding level had dropped by 60 percent compared with funding to DAR 10 years earlier. The same year, expenditures per researcher averaged $24,000 and the country’s research intensity ratio was only 0.15, placing The Gambia among the lowest investors in agricultural research in Africa. In addition to its low investment in agricultural R&D, The Gambia compares unfavorably in terms of other key indicators as well: the country’s agricultural research staff are far less qualified than their counterparts in most other African countries, and its female researcher share is one of the lowest in Africa. The national government provides funding for salaries and limited operating costs only, hence NARI’s research programs are highly dependent on foreign donor support. Without new foreign donor projects or increased government funding, Gambian agricultural research agencies are unlikely to have a real impact on the country’s rural development and poverty reduction. Moreover, gains achieved through prior projects in establishing the country’s agricultural research system will inevitably be eroded.