Coping measures not enough to avoid loss and damage from drought in the North Bank Region of The Gambia

Coping measures not enough to avoid loss and damage from drought in the North Bank Region of The Gambia

Paper examining the impact of the 2011 drought in Gambia, including coping and adaptation measures used and residual loss and damage.

In 2011, the North Bank Region of The Gambia experienced its most severe drought in 20 years and although communities adopted coping measures to deal with drought impacts, they were not effective in averting adverse effects. This paper, published in the international Journal for Global Warming, looks at how this drought affected households in the region, the coping measures they adopted, and residual loss and damage that the population nevertheless suffered. The case study is part of a bigger project, the Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. Thirty villages were randomly chosen for study from each of the six districts in the region (roughly 2% of households), with data collected through a questionnaire survey including 373 households, 60 focus group discussions, and six expert interviews. The households studied were highly sensitive to drought because their livelihoods were based on crop cultivation (99.7%) and livestock keeping (98.4%). The results showed that almost all respondents reported that the 2011 drought had affected their household, particularly through crop failure, livestock losses and high food prices. Most respondents qualified the adverse impacts of the drought as ‘severe’ (78.7%) or ‘moderate’ (21%), while the most widely adopted coping strategy was to seek alternative income when crops failed. More than half of households sold assets, particularly livestock, to buy food, while others relied on food aid (48%) or social networks (47%); all of these proving to be crucial coping strategies. Other methods used included reducing expenditures and modifying food consumption patterns. However, for almost two thirds of the households, these measures were not sufficient to avoid loss and damage, or else had adverse effects. The paper finishes with the following recommendations:

  • More irrigation agriculture could help farmers in the region become less dependent on rainfall, and a more diverse crop mix could reduce the risk of crop failure.
  • While measures aimed at preventing crop failures are useful, more should be done to prevent loss and damage in the event that crops fail, e.g. promoting the non-farm sector in rural areas through skills development and better marketing of local goods.
  • Public broadcasting should be used to help the important task of raising awareness and knowledge of climate variability, and the implications for livelihoods.
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