Climate Change in The Gambia

In August 2015 Alice Jones, a student of Geography at Newnham College, Cambridge and Tanglewest Douglas, a sixth form student from Magdalen School Oxford spent two weeks researching people's perceptions of climate change at community level in Gunjur, at Gambian Government and civil society level and also by questioning participants at an International Conference on climate change held at the British Embassy. Amongst their findings were people's clear views that:

  1. An increasingly unpredictable rainy season is leading to a detrimental effect on food production in the country, especially rice, with a corresponding dependency on expensive and often unaffordable imported rice whose importation is itself is contributing to climate change
  2. Changes to the rains are causing both drought and flash flooding
  3. An increase in the temperature of the Gambia which is consistent with the findings of the UNDP (Sweeney, 2012. UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles: The Gambia)
  4. Increasing sea levels have been observed affecting the low-lying country, resulting in current and potential future damage. The effects of sea level rise are perceived to be focused in Banjul the capital city as well as the beaches at the tourist destinations
  5. This is likely to have severe economic impact as the country relies on the seasonal tourist industry which is estimated to make up 20 - 25% of GDP
  6. Deforestation is likely to worsen and exaggerate the impact of climate change on the country through the unsustainable use of firewood reducing the earth's carbon sinks and increased erosion of top soil leading to reduced soil fertility
  7. The local residents of Gunjur noted the most significant impact on fauna to be on livestock malnutrition and a positive impact on the mosquito population causing a reduction in the incidence of malaria. Additionally, the loss of fauna through climate change is observed to have a potential impact on the biodiversity of the country
  8. The residents in the community of Gunjur almost unanimously claimed that they believed climate change to be the will of God; this was not a view held by more educated Gambians who were well aware of the scientific causes and the responsibility by industrialised countries
  9. In terms of what is being done to tackle both the impact of, and the reduction in future climate change, there were two key government initiatives:
    a) An Early Warning System of impending drought / floods etc & b)The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project
  10. The impact on development is the most important part of the report. Primarily, the impact on food production and the tourist industry have been and are likely to continue to be the worst affected industries for the Gambia
  11. The Gambia's Poverty Reduction Strategy has generally aligned with the Millennium Development Goals and the impact of climate change has slowly and actively prevented the successful achievement of these goals. This includes slowing of child poverty reduction as well as reducing the likelihood that the goal involving the reduction of disease will be achieved

In conclusion, the research shows that there is a marked difference in the level of knowledge about climate change between people at a community level and policy makers. There is little understanding of the international responsibility for climate change not least by industrialised countries. Current policies are not sufficient to protect the Gambia from the worsening effects of climate change and more needs to be done to support the country's development.

Read the Climate Change in The Gambia report in full.