Public agricultural R&D investments in The Gambia have followed an erratic pattern since the turn of the millennium, largely due to significant yearly fluctuations in government and donor support. In 2008, the country invested close to 20 billion dalasi or 2.6 million PPP dollars (in 2005 prices) in agricultural R&D, or 0.51 percent of its national agricultural GDP. NARI, the country’s primary agricultural research agency, accounted for close to three-quarters of these investments. The completion of the large World Bank loan–funded project, ASP, in 1999 prompted a sudden decline in NARI’s overall agricultural R&D investment levels. During 2000–08, various other donors funded agricultural R&D at NARI, but at much lower overall levels compared with those of the 1990s.
It is expected, however, that funding will increase in the coming years, particularly with the 2011 launching of WAAPP, a new agricultural R&D program financed through a World Bank loan.
The establishment of MoHERST in 2007 was a promising sign that the Gambian government acknowledges the significant role S&T can play in the country’s agricultural and overall development. Nonetheless, the creation of a dedicated S&T ministry has not translated into agricultural R&D funding growth. On the contrary, overall agricultural R&D spending levels have gradually fallen since 2006. Attaining some of the country’s ambitious national S&T objectives will prove to be extremely difficult without accompanying funding.
One of the principal challenges to effective agricultural R&D in The Gambia is the serious lack of highly trained and competent agricultural scientists. In 2008, NARI employed just 2 PhD qualified agricultural scientists, while the remaining agricultural R&D agencies employed none. Training of young agricultural scientists to the PhD level should therefore be a top priority in the years to come, as a critical mass of highly qualified research staff is crucial to producing high-level research and to securing future R&D funding, whether through regional competitive funds or other channels.