is a staple food crop grown and imported to The Gambia, the base
for most dishes. Grown in the rainy season, it looks like grain
before processing, which involves pounding in a mortar with a
pestle. There are several varieties available at the market, usually
costing about (£0.60 pence) per standard cup.
Home Grown Variety:
The staple crop is grown in what is called a 'faro' (rice
paddy fields). The traditional type, grown on the uplands and
swamps long before the arrival of the colonial powers, is short
grained and it has been left to women to cultivate this variety.
It is cultivated as a subsistence crop and a small amount sold
as a cash crop. Today, 2 varieties are grown widely in the Gambia
called ITA 306 and IET 3137.
The rest of the consumer market is satisfied via the major importers
of rice to West Africa.
History of Rice Production:
Traditionally they have used the banto faros in the upland areas
where the water from the river was not too salty and the fields
not too high to prevent their fields from being flooded. It is
during the rainy season when the women plant the seedlings from
the nurseries to the paddy fields. At the end of the year the
rice crop was harvested and the seed separated from the husk by
various threshing techniques.
Between 1966 and 1969 a Mr. Lee led a Chinese (Taiwan) agricultural
team which introduced rice cultivation via the method of irrigation
on Janjanbureh Island (Georgetown). This initial enthusiasm soon
faded and the project ran out of steam. This was followed by another
Chinese team (1974-1975) who set up base at the Sapu Rice Research
Station in the Central River Division.
In 1973 the Gambia Government started its Development Project.
In 1982 a rice irrigation project was started at the Jahali and
Pacharr Smallholder Rice Development Fields involving 1,474 hectares
in the McCarthy Island Division. Two years later, in 1984, yielded
its first harvest. It proved a resounding success with rice yields
surpassing all expectations. The area generated 2 crops a year
averaging 17 tonnes per acre. This success has yet to be replicated
as it was unparalleled worldwide at the time.
Other irrigation projects followed such as RIDEP (Rice Irrigation
Development Project) which was started in 1998, Small Scale Water
Control Project (SSWC) in 1991, Lowland Agricultural Development
Project (LADEP), 1997.