Torgeir Fyhri 1998
Chapter 5: The Development of the Agriculture Sector 1983-96
CHAPTER 5: The Development of the
Agriculture Sector 1983-96
5 THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CROP SUB-SECTOR 1983-96.
Besides explaining eventually production alterations, the variables will be discussed in relation to each other. It is however; important to point out that not all of the variables of the model will be discussed that thoroughly in the analysis. The relevance of the model is rather to visualise the complexity of developing the agricultural sector.
However, according to the problem of this thesis, the household as an actor in the system is emphasised in the analysis. Further, both the model and the analysis aim at pointing out the spatial dialectics of the agricultural development process.
According to the model above, figure 5.1, the eventually alterations in production are related to changes in production, area, and area productivity of the upland cereal crop early millet, the upland cash crop groundnut and swamp rice. Data on these alterations are presented in sub-chapter 5.1. The rest of the chapter is consecrated analysis of the different variables, and their relevance to the production and the system as a whole.
Firstly, sub-chapter 5.2 discusses the relevance of the bio-system to the farming system. Secondly, sub-chapter 5.3 analyses the importance of labour availability also in relation to productive land. Thirdly, the importance of eventually, technical improvements will be analysed in sub-chapter 5.4. Fourthly, sub-chapter 5.5 discusses the relevance of the agricultural policy system. This sub-chapter discusses implicit the relation to the economic system and the demand system and in turn their gathered relevance to the production alterations. Finally, sub-chapter 5.6 discusses the farming household as an actor in the entire system.
However, both the data and the discussion concentrate on the development of the crop-sub-sector mainly at the national level. One of the variables of the farming household system, responses, will be analysed in relation to more qualitative data in a discussion at a lower geographical scale in the next chapter.
Table 5.1a: Early millet production in The Gambia 1983/84-1994/96, Cultivated and Harvested area are measured in `000 Ha. Yield are measured in kg./Ha. Total production are measured in `000
tones. (Source: DoP 1995a, 1995b & 1996)
Groundnut production in The Gambia 1983/84-1994/96, Cultivated and Harvested area are measured in `000 Ha. Yield are measured in kg./Ha. Total production are measured in `000 tonnes. (Source: DoP 1995a, 1995b & 1996)
Table 5.1c: Swamp rice production in The Gambia 1983/84-1994/96, Cultivated and Harvested area are measured in `000 Ha. Yield are measured in kg./Ha. Total production are measured in `000 tonnes. (Source: DoP 1995a, 1995b & 1996)
In 1992/93 both low groundnut yields (849 kg/ha) and a small cultivated area (158 570 ha) led to low total production of all crops (136 570 tons). In 1989/90 a rather average cultivated area (180 420 ha) and a positive extreme in yield per ha for groundnuts (1509) made the total production of all crops 230 080 tons. As further discussions of this chapter indicate, these fluctuations are not easily explained. However, the fluctuations might be explanations themselves. Fluctuations in yield per ha might be a source of risk at a farming household level. By this, as discussed in chapter 4, the farming household sought to minimise the risk through their social organisation such as the tenure system or multiple modes, or by adapting their farming practices. Hence, the changes within the social organisation or farming practices do influence either agricultural production directly or through the variables visualised in figure 5.1. In addition, as the director of the Department of Planning (DoP) K. B. Johm (1992) claims, the unpredictable fluctuations of all the measured parameters is problematic when planning agriculture and forming agricultural policies.
The most visible production trend during the period is the changed importance of the different crops within the farming system. Increased groundnut and swamp rice production has been the main aims of Gambian modernisation strategies. However, early millet has become more important while groundnut and swamp rice production has decreased. The Country Position Paper for the World Food Summit (The Gambia 1996a) and Bojang (1996), claim soil degradation through intensive farming and monocropping, farming practices, to be the main causes of these trends. The agricultural policies had led to more intensive farming, increased mechanisation and shorter fallow periods. In the swamp area, salinisation of the soil had limited arable land (The Gambia 1996a). However, the yields of groundnuts and swamp rice have not necessarily decreased. In the case of groundnuts it is cultivated and harvested area, which has decreased and in turn led to declining total production of this crop.
When we know that there has been a rapid population growth during the period, and as a result increased demand for food, other explanations than soil degradation have to be added. Producer prices, and farming input prices have changed during the period due to the liberalisation, resulted by the ERP. Subsidies on fertiliser were removed and output prices on groundnuts have fallen.
Figure 5.3 indicates another interesting trend. The year to year fluctuations of early millet is lesser than that of swamp rice and groundnuts. If we divide the lowest yield per ha with the highest of the period we come out with a coefficient were zeros is lowest and 1 is the highest. For early millet this coefficient is 0.74, for groundnuts 0.56 and for swamp rice 0.57. We must assume that production at a household level is easier to plan when the yields are stabile. Producing early millet tends to be less vulnerable against varying ecological fluctuations such as precipitation. Since early millet is a domestic consumed crop, it is also less vulnerable to price fluctuations. From a farming
household perspective, producing the subsistence crop, early millet, therefore, contains less risk than groundnuts.
Figure 4.6 presents seasonal and not yearly average rainfall. Even more important than yearly rainfall are the seasonal and the timing of the rainy season (Alimi 1990). In 1985/86, late rains reduced the groundnut crop. In the 88/89 season the groundnut harvest failed due to uneven distribution of rainfall. Total rainfall was, however, high (Jabara 1990). In the 1996/97 season precipitation failure early in the planting season led to death of groundnut plants in the Farafenni area (Samba Bah: Agricultural Extension Worker, Upper Baddibu district: pers. commun.). Groundnut is relatively drought resistant; water requirement of the groundnut is between 300-600 mm, and dependent on being planted at the right time. Right time means usually first decade of July when average decade rainfall is greater than 50 mm. Delay beyond 15th of July would mean little chance of attaining physical maturity and probably failure of the groundnut harvest (Alimi 1990). However, lack of adequate seasonal rainfall data in required time series make correlation with cultivated area and yield per ha output problematic.
As discussed in chapter 4, and showed in figure 4.6, rainfall in the Gambia follows five years fluctuations. No clearly trend of declining precipitation are visible in figure 5.4 and 4.6. However, figure 4.7 shows a remarkable declining trend the last thirty years:
In the upland area, the long-term decrease in rainfall tends to affect the growing season and the choice of crop (USAID 1992). The result is a strengthening of the scarcity of season. Shorter growing season creates a labour bottleneck, which in turn affects the choice of crop (Willis 1996).
Short duration crops as early millet tends to be more preferred now than before. In addition, the shorter growing season has affected the social sustainability due to increased farm risk. The fluctuations of yield per hectare groundnut production has become larger and therefore more risky to produce. However, rainfall fluctuations cannot alone explain the alterations in crop production, but the long-term downward trend might have a devastating impact on the environment (Gambia 1987a). The result is less tolerance for crop production. This decreasing tolerance might explain some the large annual fluctuations presented in figure 5.3 and 5.4. When the trend is decrease in total rainfall in an ecological zone with already little tolerance of rainfall, local day to day rainfall variations not visible in the statistics could have a devastating impact not only on the environment, but also on crop production. However, these suppositions cannot be proved by statistics, especially not at a national level.
However, it tends to be a disagreement between different scientist when it comes to causes of land degradation. The Government of The Gambia (Gambia 1996a) claims that land degradation is caused by lack on emphasis of conservation of traditional agriculture practises. Contrary, Willis (1996) and SWMU/DAS (1994), claim that the land degradation is a result of agricultural intensification and adaptation of short-term perspective among farmers. We can give either of them neither wrong nor right. Both the bush fallow practise and agricultural intensification causes land degradation.
Increased deforestation has occurred due to agricultural intensification and increased population pressure in The Gambia (ibid.). According to Ridder (1991), 42 000 ha forest were removed between 1980 and 1987. Averagely, 6000 ha were removed yearly. Annual bush fires are estimated to burn 80 % of the forest cover (SWMU/DAS 1994), including both virgin forest and bush fallow areas. Bushfires break out both accidentally or purposely as a part of the fallow practise. Setting fire on the bush in the dry season ease the opportunity to cultivate an area after a fallow period. However, when vegetation is removed through bush fires, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus escape into the atmosphere (Maalenku 1993a). In addition, the soil becomes exposed to water and wind, which are transporting particles away from the fields.
Soil erosion by water is claimed by SWMU/DAS (1994) to be the most serious type of land degradation in the country. It has been estimated that continuously cropped fields with slopes of only 2% have soil losses greater than 12,5 tons/ha/year. Soil productivity is declining where fertile soil particles are lost. Siltation where infertile sediments are deposited on exist crop land down slope is another type of land degradation caused by soil erosion.
Soil conservation and fertility maintenance on the uplands of The Gambia has been achieved through the fallow practise and shifting cultivation (see chapter 4) allowed farmlands to recover their facility and protected these against excessive erosion (Bojang 1996). This practise was possible due to low population density and the relative abundance of virgin forestland and effective as long as the majority of the surrounding lands remained under vegetation cover (ibid.).
Rapid population growth and promotion of advanced technologies have also encouraged abandonment of shifting cultivation and the fallow practise. The result has been an expansion of cultivation into marginal land by removing forest and range vegetation. Marginal soils soon lose their fertility because of leaching nutrients, loss of organic matter and soil erosion (SWMU/DAS 1994, Willis 1996).
In the lowlands, salinisation has been the main cause to land degradation. In the former sub-chapter, salinisation caused by a long-term downward rainfall trend was discussed, but salinisation is also man made. In irrigated rice fields water from the river is pumped up in the fields levelled higher than the river, when the water evaporates, salt is left in the soil (The Gambia 1996a).
However, with the basis in agricultural statistics and area data, estimating the impact of land degradation and thereby on crop productions is not a simple task. Using yield per hectare production as an estimate has several limitations. No trend in yield per hectare production (see figure 5.3) can illuminate the impact of soil degradation to crop production in the period. In addition, fertiliser use and different farming strategies affects area productivity. Torrence (1991), The Government of The Gambia (Gambia 1996a), and the farmers in NBD (Interviews, field study 1996), claim the gravity of land degradation as a constraint to crop production in recent years. The long-term downward rainfall trend has decreased the tolerance of the soil and made it more vulnerable to rainfall variations.
According to the Land Resource Study (Dunsmore et. al 1976) and DoP (1996), total arable land in The Gambia is over 550 000 ha. Between 1976 and 1996 the utilisation degree has been between 30 and 35% per year. However, most of the land reserves are placed in the lowlands, while most of the crops are produced in the upland. According to DeCosse (1992), 77% of the upland area is utilised for farming, and there might be some land scarcity in some regions. In the peri-urban agricultural areas of Kanifing land pressure due to rural-urban migration has forced the population to abandon the practise of shifting cultivation and resort to more intensive use of farmland. The result has been, according to NPC (1991) loss of soil fertility and fall in area productivity, which in turn limits total arable land at a lower geographical scale.
Weil claimed in 1986, that the stock of workers in rural areas had decreased due to rapid urbanisation. Jagne (1996) claims that the displacement of rural population to urban areas will have a general effect on the economy of the Gambia as a whole, due to importance of the agricultural sector. Numbers from the CSD (1994a) shows that while the urban population constituted for 30% of total population in 1983, the number had increased to 37% in 1993 (see table 4.1 and 4.2). However, internal migration has not affected the total agricultural population at this moment. Since 1986, there has been a rapid population growth both in rural and urban areas. In 1985 the total agricultural population was 615 000 with a total agricultural labour force of 290 000. By contrast, in 1994 the total agricultural population was 861 000 with a total agricultural labour force of 397 000 (see table 4.3 and 4.4). Except from some rural regions, there is no decrease in the agricultural population or the agricultural labour force in percent of the total population in The Gambia (FAO 1995). This means that both the total agricultural workforce and population have increased during the study period. A reasonable consequence would be a more labour intensive agricultural production with increased cultivated area and yields. However, the trends in cultivated area as shown in figure 5.4 paints quiet a different picture.
The reason might be the labour bottleneck in the short rainy season. The increased agricultural workforce cannot be fully utilised when the already cultivated area requires more labour than before in the rainy season, due to the long-term downward rainfall trend discussed in sub-chapter 5.2.
It is, however, important to be aware of the changes in the composition of the rural population due the migration process. Mainly men and women in their most productive age are migrating to urban areas (CSD 1994a, Jagne 1996). The result is that: i) The average age of the agricultural population is higher than the urban population. ii) The agricultural workforce contains a greater share of elders than the total population of the Gambia (CSD 1994a).
As table 5.3 indicates, mechanisation of the groundnut fields has increased more than coarse grain fields. Farming with this kind of improved technical improvement has, however, certain drawbacks. The use of the seeder requires well-ploughed and harrowed plots. More labour contribution is needed preparing the plot in a busy period, which in turn affects fallowing. As a result the use of fallow becomes even more seldom, due to the extra labour contribution (DeCosse 1992, Bojang 1996).
A greater share of male labour in swamp rice production and male migration to urban areas have forced the women into groundnut production and in turn into the use of draft animals in some regions of The Gambia. However, mainly men invest in this kind of equipment. The equipment is expensive and men have easier access to credit than women do. The traditional household ownership pattern discriminate women who have no right to own mechanised equipment. Mechanisation of women's rice fields has been ignored and since the rice is produced for own consumption, the return of investments in animal traction may be low (Diallo 1991).
Although the uses of animal traction are increasing and farming equipment are improved, the potential of the technical improvements is not yet fully utilised.
5.5 Agricultural policies
Large annual variations in national agricultural production illustrate the problems of planning agricultural activities in The Gambia (Johm 1992a). Rainfall cannot be planned neither can world market prices on crops. Economic development in The Gambia depends on both variables. Figure 5.6 illustrate this point. According to the figure, the value of exported groundnut products does not correlate with the quantity exported. This finding indicate the relevance of the world market prices on groundnuts to the national economy in The Gambia. The figure also shows the low correlation between total production and exported quantity of groundnuts. Variations in domestic consumption might be the explanation of the latter phenomena.
A report presented by the government of The Gambia (Gambia 1987b) indicates that it was much uncertainty of the practical ends of privatisation of the parastatal agricultural institutions. According to DeCosse (1992), the main result of the privatisation policies has been that the development of the crop sub-sector in The Gambia has been disappointing for most of the past decade.
"The impact of macro-economic policy reforms including privatisation, credit and interest rates of liberalisation, and removal of subsidies were found to impact negatively on the agricultural sector resulting in low productivity thereby aggravating food insecurity." (Gambia 1996a pp. viii).
Liberalisation has been the main effort in modernising strategies during the study period. The era of five-year plans, and governmental encroaches upon the market forces were over. However, even if the new strategy was necessary it was not successful. An interesting point is that in a report presented by The Gambia in 1987 (1987a), liberalisation policies during the ERP were seen as the life belt of both food and cash crop production. In a report presented by the same authors in 1996, the liberalisation polices were blamed for the failure of both food and cash crop production (The Gambia 1996a). Below, the efforts of the liberalisation process, the agricultural policies, will be analysed to seek explanations of this phenomenon.
Raising through producer price subsidy on groundnuts was the ERP strategy in increasing the production in the Gambia. The price could not deviate much from the Senegalese prices, which were subsidised. If so, Gambian farmers would probably sell groundnuts to Senegalese buyers. Contrary, in according to Lemarchand (1988), more than half of Senegal's peanut harvest in 1985, was smuggled abroad, mainly into The Gambia. Groundnut trade through informal channels is an important constrains to the economy in both countries. However, transport costs and lack of infrastructure limits the importance of price differences between the two countries.
Price subsidies contain additional problems. The GPMB, which had the responsibility of buying the nuts, bring upon large expenses. The pre-ERP price policies had already added a debt burden to the GPMB. Two years after the introduction of the ERP the aim of increasing producer prices on groundnuts was given up. In addition, they did not manage to keep the Gambian prices higher than the Senegalese until France devalued the CFA in 1994 (see figure 5.7) (Carr & Sarr 1994).
Already in the 1985/86 season, when the ERP was introduced, questions were raised whether the economical foundation of the GPMB and the national economy were too weak to accomplish the aim of increasing the production prices on groundnuts (Akinboade 1994, Jabara 1990). World market prices had a sharp decline and the producer prices were subsidised by 46.3% by the GPMB. A flexible exchange rate was implemented the same season by floating the dalasi. As a result the value of the dalasi decreased. The following season, groundnut prices raised 64% due to increased world market prices, but the price subsidy constituted 42.2 %. From the 1987/88 season, Gambian groundnut prices were based on prevail world prices and reduced from D1800 to D1500 per ton. To encourage competition, obstacles to private groundnut traders were removed the same season. The following season, 1988/89, producer prices were reduced to D1100 per ton. The GPMB realised a 13.2 mill. Dalasi loss on groundnut operations (Jabara 1990). Since that season, actual groundnut prices have steadily increased until stabilisation or stagnation at D2000 in 1992/93 to present.
The reasons for liberalising the fertiliser sub-sector were in the first place to make the distribution more self-sustained. Market forces of supply and demand should reduce costs of fertiliser to farmers through efficiency. Reducing the role of the government was another aim. Liberal credits and heavy subsidies on fertiliser during the monopoly state of the pre-ERP had led to a rapid consumption increase from 2877 tons in 1973 to 12135 tons in 1981 (Gambia 1987a). However, this strategy had not managed to make the fertiliser sub-sector self-sustained. Mismanagement and losses in its groundnut trade added a heavy debt burden to the GPMB. In addition, lack of adequate storing facilities and functioning transport infrastructure of fertiliser gave financial loss. Economic support through subsides from the government were required to sustain the GPMB`s operations (Gambia 1987a, Nagarajan et. al. 1993). Due to economic problems and ERP, GPMB became privatised in 1988 (Woodward 1988).
However, the liberalisation of the fertiliser sub-sector has not met the desirable end. Fertiliser importation and use has declined in the post ERP era. As shown in table 5.4 (DoP 1990, 1996), per cent area cultivated with fertiliser has been dramatically reduced within six years. Figure 5.9 and 5.10 support these findings. Both retail and official prices have increased considerably, because subsidies have been removed. In turn, fertiliser import is reduced due to decreasing demand. However, lack of data over actual use of fertiliser is not excisting. Import data does not account for year to year storage and might have limited value in this analysis.
Credit repayment deficit caused GCU a heavy debt burden due to outstanding loans. By 1985, the GCU owed D35.2 millions due to poor repayment rates among farmers. ERP credit reforms focused on improving the financial viability of the GCU. In 1987/88 new criteria for earning credit were implemented. The main objective was that private traders should take up the credit business (Johm 1988). Loan defaulters were excluded from new loans. Only co-operative members who get credit in the previous year were eligible for new credit. The result was poorer access to credit for poorer rural household (Jabara 1990). Women tend to be the main losers, producing food for own consumption with lesser opportunity to gain cash income. Already before the reform of the credit system, women received only 20% of the GCU credit funds (Johm 1988).
Better-off households, that paid the inputs in cash anyway, increased their access to credit (Jabara 1990). The new credit component was not a success, due to less access among farmers. In addition, private traders were less interested than expected in taking up the credit business due to the inherent risk associated with this activity (Johm 1988). According to Akinboade (1994), lesser use of credit led to decrease in agriculture investments among farmers.
Due to failure of both groundnut operations and fertiliser marketing, the GPMB experienced a financial crisis during the eighties. The main objectives of the GPMB, maximisation of producer prices and foreign exchange return to the economy tended to be incompatible (Woodward et. al. 1988). The GPMB became privatised in 1988. However, the economic environment was not favourable for privatisation. Uncertainty among private actors about governmental interventions limited the success of the privatisation both in the fertiliser and groundnut trade (Nagarajan et al. 1993). In the beginning of the 90s foreign investors, mainly Swiss, bought the majority of the GPMB and created The Gambian Groundnut Company (GGC). In the present, groundnut and fertiliser prices are set by the GCU (which owns 10% of GGC) the government, and the GGC.
The parastatal agricultural institutions have become more economically self-sustained as a result of the privatisation process. However, a harder economical climate for the farmers has developed. Government assistance and protection of the farmers are getting weaker with less access to credit, low crop prices and high fertiliser prices. Groundnut production as the main commercial crop depends very much on these three variables. As a result, groundnut production involves more risk than before. Subsistence related early millet production, depends less on these variables. Early millet is seldom sold on the market and early millet cultivation depends less on fertiliser. Remember the decreasing trend of groundnut production and the opposite trend in early millet production. We might say that increased liberalisation led to a downturn in commercial crop production and increased interest in subsistence crop production.
Table: 5.5: Rice and Wheat & Flour import 1983/84 to 1995 (in `000 tons). (Source: The Gambia 1996a, DoP 1996)
In 1990, the Programme for Sustained Development (PSD) was launched as a successor to the ERP. Failure of the food and credit polices forced the authorities to adapt the agricultural policies implemented during the ERP-era. Survey estimates indicate that women cultivate 92% of rice areas (Johm 1992). Improving women's access to land was (contrary to the ERP) of large interest since both rice and vegetables are grown by women. (Akinboade 1994). The major aims of the PSD in addition to raise food production and reduce food imports are, as in the ERP years, to expand groundnut production, and diversify food and export crop production (The Gambia 1996a, Akinboade 1994).
The aim of increasing food production has as in the whole post-independence era resulted in a variety of large rice projects (see chapter 4). The PSD was no exception. In addition, improved techniques for coarse grains were promoted (Akinboade 1994, The Gambia 1996a). The food security situation at a national level has, however, grown worse. Remember the rapid population growth shown in figure 4.8 and the increase in urban population shown in table 4.2. Swamp rice production as shown in table 5.1c and figure 5.2c has decreased. Early millet has increased, but is seldom sold on the market. The increased early millet production therefore, cannot serve the urban market. Although, the increase in early millet production is far less than the increase in demand for food at a national level. The gap between production and demand is increasing, causing increasing dependence on food imports and thereby increased import costs (Gambia 1996a).
Below, changing farming practices and social organisation of farming will be discussed in the light of the paradoxes presented above. However, the third variable of the farming houshold system, responses, also causing changes in farming practices and social organisation will not be discussed here as whole the next chapter is consecrated the importance of this variable.
Table 5.6: Intercropping in per cent of total area practised by crop 1989/90 and 1995/96.
There exists, however, no statistical data on fallow use, but as USAID (1992) Bojang (1996), Willis (1996) and (DeCosse 1992) points out, fallow periods are declining dramatically resulting in declining soil fertility. Using decreased fallow periods, as an operationalisation for land shortage at a national level, as USAID (1992) does, might be a foundation of misconceptions. While land resource statistics indicate no absolute land scarcity in The Gambia, land pressure has affected the shifting cultivation practises at a local level (Willis 1996). DeCosse (1992) claims seasonal labour shortage and decreased will to invest labour in farming to be an additional cause of decreased fallow practise. According to Johm (1988a), and Braun & Puetz (1988) field surveys have discovered that the yields of upland crops such as early millet and groundnuts are declining when more labour is put into swamp rice production in the busy season. Import substitution through increased domestic food production might, therefore, lead to decreased cash crop production. Mechanisation of farm operations might be an effort to solve the problem of seasonal labour shortage, but also a cause of changing farm practices (Bojang 1996). The labour cost of preparing a plot for the use of light equipment, such as the seeder, is high compared to cultivating the same plot each year. In addition, the capital cost of buying oxen, which are necessary to cultivate the soils after bush fallow is also high (The Gambia 1987a). The result might be decreased use of fallow and by this dismissing soil productivity