Preceding Baotic came the 2016 MegaMeterRun, connecting with the Gambian communities we have worked with over the years and raising funds that supported the development of Mansajang village female co-operative and benefit from projects reintroducing forgotten foods…

Virtual Fun Run – megameterrun from @notreallyltd on Vimeo.

United Purpose

This project was in partnership with United Purpose, an International Charity that has a long history of working alongside government institutions and international actors engaged in nutrition in the Gambia: and have collaborated with the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), NARI and the National Food Safety and Quality Authority, as well as with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, with whom they have a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU).

Gambian Partners: WASDA

United Purpose is established as a charity in the Gambia (and the UK where it is headquartered) and works in Partnership with ‘Wuli and Sandu Development Agency’ (WASDA) and others.

Mansajang Female Co-operative

Firstly, as a result, where previously no support partners were willing to come forward we have successfully managed to work with WASDA and the hardworking, committed and entrepreneurial Mansajang community group to establish a working garden. This has supported approximately 100 women (and one elder man!) to improve infrastructure, complete a water well and multiple troths with taps, provide training and protect against the rainy season floods. This has extended the capacity to grow 3 annual harvests (compared to just 1 in the rainy season) and improve yield all to grow vegetables for income, and to improve family heath and nutrition.

Secondly, we have collectively demonstrated enough traction and lobbied our partners at WASDA and United Purpose for Mansajang to be included under 3 year European Union Funding. This will further support the group with business and agriculture training, a project manager, and access to quality seed. All of this is under a project to re-introduce ‘forgotten foods’, focusing on traditional leafy greens with exceptionally high nutritional profiles but that have been lost from modern harvest and consumption. The wider project details below…

Forgotten Foods

‘Reducing micro-nutrition deficiencies of women and children in The Gambia through sustainable and integrated approaches to food fortification‘.

The project is addressing nutritional problems of women and children and includes support to women’s gardens, women and children nutritional health clubs for nutrition education, among others. WASDA will be an implementing partner in Upper River Region. Work will be implemented through community CSOs such as women’s co-operative groups.

Paul Blackler and Isatou Njai have an existing knowledge of and relationships with communities and organisations in Upper River Region of the Gambia. Working with UP allows fundraising to be managed through a credible NGO with good connections and capacity to deliver funds to beneficiaries, for sustainable long term impact.


A range of Gambian development factors drives deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, such as: poverty, dietary change, decreasing food production and resilience and lack of women’s education on nutrition.

  1. Infrastructure; market links, high transport costs, low agricultural research investment
  2. No value-addition and agro-processing, with smallholders selling only the raw products, limiting opportunities for growth, and often contributing to produce waste.
  3. Weak market information – low bargaining power from smallholder farmers / women
  4. Poor handling knowledge leads to lower yields and poor quality reduces chances of private sector engagement.
  5. Under-resourced extension services limit adoption of improved practices.
  6. Women remain largely excluded from more profitable parts of the value chain (generally earn half that of men).
  7. Poorly addressed Micro-nutrient deficiencies
    • Lack of knowledge on nutrition and how to prepare year round nutritious food,
    • Lack of availability of bio-fortified and high micronutrient food crops.
  8. An on-going erosion of traditional coping strategies, such as
    • use of dried leaf powders for year round micro nutrient inputs,
    • access to and use of wild harvested high nutrient foods.

This project will reinforce these available resilient and high nutrition options and tap into the existing community structures and habits to improve production and drive market demand for sustainable consumption of high micro nutrient foods.

Background Research:

Food and nutrition insecurity are a challenge in all five regions of The Gambia.
This is due to high poverty levels (60% ultra-poor) and increasingly unreliable rainfall

The Gambia, relying on agriculture, has experienced an alarming increase in malnutrition.

  • Agriculture accounts for 23% of GDP, and
  • Employs 75% of the rural population, yet
  • Food security is an increasing problem with 285,000 people at risk

(UN FAO 2014).

Research highlights alarming trends:

  1. Cereal production dropped by 23% (2013-2014), a declining trend.
    • Early millet production declined by 14% since 2009 (NASS 2014).
  2. Child wasting (acute malnutrition) prevalent CRR (10.5%) URR (9.5%), WCR (9.0%).
  3. CRR N/S and URR classified as entering the ‘red zone’, indicating emergency status
    • by NaNA (Gambia’s National Nutrition Agency)

Lack of nutritious foods / knowledge – 2014 National Nutrition Surveillance Report
Malnutrition is a problem throughout, but varies between different Local Government Areas (LGAs), particularly for mothers, resulting in critical deficiencies for children.
– CRR acute malnutrition at 15% GAM levels and 3.5% SAM
– LRR acute malnutrition at 12.8% GAM levels and 2.4% SAM.

Micronutrient deficiencies – 2013 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS )
Iron (Fe) deficiency anaemia is present in
– 72.8% of children under five
– 60.3% of women of childbearing age.
Rural Women underweight (20%) outnumber those (14%) in Urban areas.
– Low nutrition levels in women aggravate the deteriorating status of nutrition and health amongst children

Project Details

(Glossary of Terms at the end)

PROJECT: systemic and sustainable changes to improve health and nutrition

Working in five rural regions of Gambia including direct targeting of Local Government Authorities (LGAs), which are nutrition hot spots, United Purpose (UP) will help the declining nutrition situation.

  • Value-chain approach to ensure maximum sustainability
  • Bottom-up approach of introduction of:
    • New varieties of biofortified crops for orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP);
    • High Fe and Zn Pearl Millet (PM);
    • Enhanced production and consumption of African leafy vegetables (ALVs).

PROJECT AIMS: stepped uptake and integration into daily consumption

  1. Integrate agriculture with nutrition and increase production
    • Preserve a maximum amount of nutritional value of the crops
  2. Educate and sensitise populations on nutritional values (ALVs, OFSP, PM).
    • Introduce cooking demonstrations
    • Introduce processing mechanisms
  3. Encourage their wide consumption among the target groups.
  4. Advocacy efforts with government institutions
    • Engage in formulating policy for bio and conventionally fortified foods
    • Enabling environment for private sector engagement.
    • Create commercial opportunities for farmers.

Project Scope:

Directly target 18,000 smallholder farmers’ households (75% women farmers) across five regions (URR, CRR N/S, LRR, North Bank Region (NBR) & WCR).

Target regions:
– Suit growing a combination of OFSP, PM and expanded ALVs in all year round production
– Good locations: material distributions and produce collection points can be established
– Have the highest rates of malnutrition.

Capacity Building Benefit:
Training and capacity building in areas of researching, testing, marketing and business planning support, as well as manufacturing and food testing equipment and capacity.
– 60 agriculture extension workers
– 100s of value chain service providers (traders, processors, transporters, agro-dealers).
– Market and finance linkages and value chain partners (flour, grain and food processors)

Component 1 will develop commercially viable, nutrition-sensitive pro-poor value chains focused on bio-fortified crops (high vitamin A OFSP, high iron and zinc PM and ALVs) from farmers to secure markets and end-buyers.

• Introduced OFSP and PM varieties, support from National Agricultural Institute (NARI).
• Planting material will be multiplied in a screenhouse at NARI’s premises
• Sent to the communities through contracted seed producers for dissemination.
• Two-stage farmer-led approach to evaluating, comparing:
– All the varieties of a target crop in a village
– Individual varieties with local varieties, under a wide range of cropping conditions and a system of ‘mother and baby trials’ at testing sites.
• Farmer Field Days (39 Local Government Districts: ALVs, OSFP, millet)
– Sharing best practice and processing methods
– Synchronise trainings, nutrition promotion and processing, through women’s marketing federations and local NGO extension agents, (UP Partners)

Component 2 will focus on creating an environment for an expanded fortification programme in The Gambia.

• The national strategy will be reviewed with stakeholders:
– Government, private sector, civil society, international bodies (FAO, UN agencies)
• Educational study tour/s (e.g. vegetable oil with vitamin A in Senegal)
–  Private sector, civil society and government participants.
• Detailed road map for expanding fortification – process-based approach to introduce
–  Options available for food fortification and
–  The trade offs, challenges and opportunities of each within the Gambia context.
–  Roles and responsibilities of stakeholders
–  Implementation plan – strengthen the capacity of national institutions to review the National Food Policy to introduce and review legislation and regulatory framework

A strong ICT communication campaign is also required to reach/impact population at scale. – Drive behavior change and market demand to ensure uptake of fortified foods, linked to better production practices and nutritional health knowledge.

ALVs, OFSP and PM: rationale

Nutritional benefits of biofortified crops

African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) For a child aged 1-3, 100gr of fresh leaves provide all daily requirements of Ca, 75% of Fe and half the protein needs, as well as important supplies of potassium, B complex vitamins, copper and all essential amino acids. 20gr of fresh leaves provide a child with the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Vit A and C. For pregnant and breast-feeding women, moringa leaves and pods significantly contribute to preserve the mother’s health and pass on strength to the fetus or nursing child. 100gr of leaves can provide a woman with over 30% her RDA of Ca and important quantities of Fe, protein, copper, sulfur and B-vitamins.

– Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP OFSP) is a source of Vit A. All orange varieties are high in Vitamin A, ranging from 3,000 to 16,000 ug/100 grams. Consuming 125gr a day of OFSP meets the RDA. OFSP is complemented by groundnuts with the groundnut oil commonly used in Gambian cooking increasing Vit A absorption.

– Pearl Millet (PM)  – It has been shown that iron bio-fortified PM doubles Fe absorption in young women and children. Switching from consumption of regular PM to bio-fortified PM we can expect a doubling the intake of Fe. Combined with food preparation that enhances Fe absorption further, and increased consumption of ALV rich in Fe and Vit C, we will offer mothers options for providing young children with meals that fulfill their daily Fe requirements.

Glossary of Terms

ALV – African Leafy Vegetables
OFSP – Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato
PM – Pearl Millet
RDA – Recommended Dietary Allowance
Fe – Iron nutrient

UN – United Nations
NGO – Non Government Organisation
NaNA – Gambia’s National Nutrition Agency
NARI – National Agricultural Institute
MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation (of United Nations)
NASS – National Agricultural Sample Survey
LGA – Local Government Areas
SAM – Severe Acute Malnutrition
GAM – Global Acute Malnutrition
DHS – Demographic and Health Survey

URR – Upper River Region
CRR – Central River Region
NBR – North Bank Region
WCR – West Central Region
LRR – Lower River Region

Read More about our Gambian Development projects via our blogs.

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