Country Profiles

Gambia - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The total number of species recorded in the country to date is 3,339 derived from 17 taxonomic groups. The country is endowed with 1,005 flowering plants, 126 species of mammals, 627 species of fishes, 566 species of birds, 784 species of insects and 77 species of reptiles.

The 2014 Waterfowl Census reveals that the population and distribution trends of waterbirds have seriously declined due to the overflooding of wetlands resulting in the subsequent invasion of aquatic species, such as phragmites and typhae. Due to the absence of large predators, there is an increase in the number of hippos, warthogs, baboons and monkeys that has led to a series of reported human-wildlife conflicts. Also, the Bijol Islands provided the only known breeding site in The Gambia for Grey-headed gulls, Royal terns, Caspian terns, Reef herons and Briddle tern. However, the islands are no longer suitable for the breeding of Grey-headed gulls and Reef herons due to sea level rise which has subsequently wiped out the vegetation, such as morning glory, casaurina and the baobab tree. This area is also no longer suitable for breeding turtles since it is frequently overflooded. Urbanization, tourism and related industrial developments along the Atlantic Coast have removed large areas of coastal vegetation, the habitat for many species that depend on coastal and marine biodiversity, such as marine turtles and vervet monkeys.

The National Forest Inventory (2009) reveals that the country’s terrestrial surface was in the past covered by dense forest, estimated at 43% of the total land area. To date, the country has lost over 13 species of mammals and an unknown number of floral species. Results of the National Forest Assessment indicate that, regardless of the forest type, the great majority (more than 50%) of the forest is Secondary Young, while smaller fractions of areas (around 30%, but more than 40% for Semi Deciduous) is Secondary Mature. Primary forest is constituted by about 11% of the area of Evergreen Forest but in smaller percentages in other forest types. This is the result of heavy exploitation in the past for charcoal and timber production.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. The sector is supported by the Government and engages nearly 70% of the active population. The decline in crop yield (e.g. groundnuts, cotton, sesame) constitutes a serious reduction in productivity. Some crops have had their diversity enhanced as a result of the introduction of other varieties from outside the country, such as New Rice for Africa (NERICA). As for livestock, some cattle breeds are on the decline. For instance, the West African shorthorn cattle, which constituted about 80% of the national cattle population in the 1990s, now constitutes about 47% of the national cattle herd.

Fisheries resources are provided from two sources, the River Gambia and the ocean. The estimated total biomass of demersal and pelagic fish resources in Gambian waters is 22,000 tons and 156,000 tons, respectively. The total fish potential from the maritime fisheries is estimated at about 88,000 tons with demersal and pelagic fish resources constituting 21% and 78%, respectively. Total annual fish production was around 38,000 tons in 1996, clearly indicating a surplus potential. Certain fish species, such as the lobster (Palinurusspp), shark, catfish (Arius heudeloti) and the white grouper (Epinephelusaetheus), are threatened as a result of unsound human exploitation strategies. Based on the current production levels, there is considerable scope for exploiting marine pelagic fisheries and aquaculture. In contrast, there is great need for tighter and more effective control of threatened demersal resources.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Examples of threats to biodiversity include the cutting of trees, including in mangrove forests, for fuel wood (it is reported that the forest provides 85% of domestic energy needs for over 90% of the population); unregulated and illegal hunting practices; destructive fishing practices (including illegal fishing gear, intrusion by foreign trawlers); illegal harvesting of thatch grasses and the cutting down of tree branches to collect wild fruits; shifting cultivation and itinerant farming practices; bushfires; overgrazing; industrial and household waste dumping into wetlands; illegal coastal sand mining activities; pollution; the proliferation of “chain saw machines” that further advances the ability of humans to destroy indigenous woody tree species. Moreover, land tenure rights and the demand for land outside traditional farming areas are steadily leading to the massive cutting down of mangroves to cultivate rice in the North Bank Region. In addition, local-level intervention to restore rice ecologies through the construction of non-environmentally-friendly anti-salt dams in the region has resulted into the abandoning of potential rice-growing zones in areas such as Farafeni, Kosemar, FoniJarrol, etc. The three most persistent threats on protected areas resources are logging, infrastructural developments and land conversion.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The Gambia’s first NBSAP (1999) was found to be inadequate to some extent to address new and emerging threats to biodiversity. Issues that prevented the full implementation of the first NBSAP are being analyzed objectively with the full participation of all stakeholders. A revised NBSAP is in preparation and will aim to mainstream biodiversity issues into sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, programs and plans (national and decentralized), as well as emphasize awareness-raising, policy and institutional reform, resource mobilization, research, training and capacity-building, monitoring, among other matters. The Gambia has already developed 20 national biodiversity targets, derived from the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The Gambia has developed 20 national biodiversity targets, derived from the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, that can be viewed at:

Currently there are 22 wildlife Protected Areas, occupying a total area of 76,064 hectares, approximately 6.4% of Gambia's total surface area. Only 0.16% of the terrestrial and inland water is protected while 7.4% of the marine and coastal areas are under formal protection with the goal being set to increase this area to 10% by 2015.

Eight of these Protected Areas are reserves and national parks while 14 are community based conservation areas under the mandate of the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPWM). There are 66 forest reserves covering a total of 34,029 hectares managed by the Department of Forestry.

Thirty four forest parks totaling 22,239 hectares or 65% were designated as protected forest. Several local community forests also exist covering 18,000 hectares. However, most of these state and community forest reserves are exploited for firewood, timber and uncontrolled grazing though in principle meant to serve as biological pools to meet both local urban needs without compromising its environmental functions. Thus, they are not categorized as Protected Areas but few others such as Bijilo, Pirang, Kungkilling and Dobo are undoubtedly managed for conservation.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The Biodiversity Policy and Act are being implemented within the context of the overall framework of the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Policy which encompasses the water and other natural resource sectors (forestry, fisheries, livestock, parks and wildlife, and the environment), each of which is implementing its own sectoral policy.

In the quest for sustainable financing of protected areas, The Gambia has successfully developed guidelines for private-sector involvement. This paved the way for the establishment of the Abuko Nature Reserve, a private game reserve whose management is led by the Gambian government, with the full involvement of the Eagle Heights Conservation Centre (a UK charity organisation). The Eagle Heights project is meant to reintroduce wildlife species in Abuko and Kiang West National Park. A tourism package has been successfully developed with some local private investors. Notably, a Biodiversity Trust Fund has been established with the proceeds of US$40,000 as seed money for financing sustainability options for protected areas.

The National Policy for the Advancement of Gambian Women concerns mainstreaming women into the national development process, across all sectors, and setting goals and strategies for facilitating equal access to opportunities for women in order to bridge gaps of traditional gender-based inequalities and deprivation, and to achieve an equitable gender balance in rural economic activities, especially agricultural production, processing and marketing.

The Gambia is a Party to the Nagoya Protocol. The country has ratified the protocol on the 3rd July 2014. It has also validated its roadmap for the implementation of the protocol and the establishment of its legal and institutional framework.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A coherent monitoring plan will be drawn up as part of the review process of the implementation of the revised NBSAP, using the national targets that have already been developed, and a set of indicators.