The Gambia, with a population of over 1.7 million, remains one of the least developed, low-income and food-deficit countries in the world, ranked 165 of 186 on the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). The country’s economy is predominately subsistence agrarian, and 53 percent of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.

While subsistence agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, domestic cereal production accounts for only up to 60 percent of annual consumption requirements. A December 2011 post-harvest assessment (led by the Ministry of Agriculture and WFP) revealed a 50 percent drop in overall crop production from the five year average. In part due to these production deficiencies, the Gambia relies heavily on food imports, and the relatively undiversified economy makes the country highly vulnerable to external shocks. 

According to the 2012 national nutrition survey, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is 10.1 percent, ranging from 7.5 percent to 13.1 percent across the five regions. The 2012 Standardized Monitoring and Assessment in Relief and Transitions (SMART) demonstrated that in three out of the country’s five regions, the rates remain above 10 percent, the threshold for conditions to be considered “serious.” The prevalence of stunting ranges from 13.9 to 30.7 percent, and the two regions (north bank and central river region) with serious GAM rates also suffer critical stunting rates.

About 46.5 percent of adult men and women are literate. Government policies provide for universal access to pre-primary and primary education, but the quality of education and retention rates are of concern. According to the 2010 Country Status Report, 29 percent of the children do not attend school, and primary education completion rate is just 74 percent.