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Gambia Food Crisis

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Drought in West Africa

There has been a widespread drought in west Africa, affecting Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad as well as The Gambia. Rainfall in The Gambia was well below normal during the 2011-2012 farming season, resulting in severe crop failures, with an overall reduction in production of about 70%. In some villages the harvest failed completely, and even where a harvest was gathered, there is probably only enough for about 2 months food. Normally the farmers are able to provide food for 4-6 months before the villagers need to purchase from outside. Prices of locally produced food have soared, and large increases in world food prices mean that imported food is also very expensive.

The Gambian Government has declared an emergency, and is mobilizing all available emergency funds to help those in the worst affected areas. They have called on the International Community and NGOs for help.

You can read more about it on this page of the Daily Observer, and on this UN Food and Agriculture Organisation page. There is an in-depth assessment of the situation on this International Red Cross document (PDF).

What can you do to help?

Pageant Ethical Gifts

Unlike larger charities, Pageant is not equipped to deliver large scale food aid, but we can contribute something by asking you to help us with existing Pageant programmes. We have a number of appropriate Ethical Gifts, which you can purchase. Just click on the links below to take you straight to the item on our list of gifts:

  • Sack of Rice - 22.50 buys a 50kg sack of rice, which will feed a large family for a month. Please donate using our Ethical Gifts programme, and the money will be sent directly to our agents in the Gambia, who will buy the rice and deliver it to a deserving family in the areas which we cover. Our projects, children and families in Bakalarr, Sika, Juffreh, Soma and Jarreng are all in the worst-affected regions.

Also you can help by ensuring the best possible outcome from the next harvest, by buying ethical gifts for use in village gardens, which provide much of the food for village families:

  • Watering Can - Just 12 buys a watering can, essential for the care of young plants.

  • Garden Tools - Just 12.50 buys a rake, spade and hoe.

  • Fertilizer - 25 buys a 50kg bag of fertilizer which will be shared between 10 gardeners.

If you just want to give the item without the bother of filling in a form and you don't want one of our cards, then just send a cheque payable to Pageant for the appropriate amount, and write the name of the gift on the back. Please send it to Ian and Pippa Howard. Old School, Worthing Road, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex. RH13 9DT, UK. Remember to send us a GiftAid form to allow us to reclaim UK Tax, and make your donation worth an extra 25%.

We haven't set up a dedicated online appeal, but you can send us a donation through Virgin Money Giving. Click this link to take you to our home page, click Make a donation (top right) and on the donation page tick the box for I'd like to leave a message and leave us a message such as Please buy a sack of rice for hungry people in the Gambia.

Harvest Festivals

It's a bit early in the year to be thinking about Harvest Festivals, but a few years ago, a number of schools and churches used their Harvest Festivals to collect packets of seeds for The Gambia (see details). Harvest Festivals mostly happen about mid September, and the best time for sowing vegetable seeds in The Gambia is after the rains have finished in October. This coincides with the regular visit of the Pageant team, who can take out the packets of seeds. So if you are associated with a church or school, you have plenty of time to organise something. Meanwhile, if you are visiting a garden centre, look out for packets of seed being sold off cheap at the end of the UK sowing season. The most popular seeds to send to the Gambia are tomatoes (specially the large ones), onions, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, aubergines, peppers, parsley and courgettes.

Larger Charities

Several large charities are helping with food aid for the west African drought area in general. However, Gambia is just one small country in this area, and it is difficult to find programmes which directly target The Gambia. ActionAid and the Red Cross have started to deliver food aid, but Pageant's agents in The Gambia say that so far it's very limited in quantity, and not getting to everyone in the community who needs it. Please also bear in mind that larger charities tend to have higher admin costs than Pageant. Our running costs are covered by members' subscriptions, so 100% of any donation goes to The Gambia. We have calculated that a donation to Pageant to buy rice locally could be up to three times more cost-effective than a donation to one of the big charities.

...and the animals

Gambian horses and donkeys are also going hungry, and this will affect their ability to do essential work on the farms. The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust has an appeal to help look after these animals through this difficult period.


Pageant is a UK Charity - Registered No 1093963

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