Large-scale Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the Gambia river basin: Developing a climate-resilient, natural resource-based economy

UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Published: 30 November 2021
Last edited: 30 November 2021
remove_red_eye 2876 Views


The consequences of climate change in the Gambia are stark and Gambians are extremely vulnerable. Increased temperatures, wind storms, coastal erosion, erratic rainfall, droughts, and floods have intensified, resulting in reduced agricultural and livestock production and unsustainable extraction of resources from forest ecosystems by rural households.


UNEP is supporting The Gambia’s government with Gambia’s largest adaptation project. Funded by the Green Climate Fund, the aim is of this large-scale Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) intervention is to build climate resilience over large areas and promote climate-resilient sustainable development. This is achieved firstly by restoring degraded ecosystems, including forests, mangroves and savannahs, and agricultural landscapes with climate-resilient plant species that provide goods for consumption or sale; and secondly, by facilitating the establishment of natural resource-based businesses and management committees to manage the Gambian natural resource base sustainably.


West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Ecosystem services
Food security
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through consumers


The Gambia | The project is being implemented across four regions of Gambia: Lower River Region; Upper River Region; Central River Region North; and Central River Region South
Lower River, The Gambia
Upper River, The Gambia
Central River, The Gambia


The Gambia is extremely vulnerable to climate change consequences regarding temperature and water. To protect Gambians and their livelihoods from these negative impacts and increase resilience, the focus lies on restoring degraded ecosystems and agricultural landscapes. The main challenge in this restoration endeavour however has been the low availability of adequate and viable seedlings and threats to their survival. These were the main challenges:

  1. the low survival rate of the seedlings due to insufficient numbers of seed banks to store viable seeds for future uses, not enough tree nurseries nor nursery attendants.
  2. lack of appropriate technology for ascertaining the viability of the selected seedlings
  3. human activities, such as bushfires, cooking, and illegal logging as well as limited knowledge on the movement and ranging patterns of large herbivores threaten the survival of the young seedlings planted
  4. extreme climatic conditions that necessitate a high level of water usage to irrigate the seedlings.


The project is benefiting up to 11,550 Gambian households directly and 46,200 households indirectly in four regions along the Gambia River. It includes women, farmers, local populations, coastal populations, and natural resource-based businesses.

How do the building blocks interact?

The first building block should be the first step. Assessing the number of adequate seeds and resources available is crucial, to then determine if the construction of new nurseries or gene banks is necessary or not. This will guarantee that you will have the necessary quantity of seeds to start implementing the project and match the objectives.


Then, it is key to determine what could reduce the survival rate of the seedlings, once planted, and elaborate appropriate solutions, like the adaptation and mitigation measures highlighted in building block 2. Adding these activities and selecting only appropriate restoration and agricultural techniques is very important to protect seedlings from the negative impacts of climate risks, human activities, and other factors.


Only then creating economically viable natural-resources-based businesses (building block 3) is promising and can foster sustainable long-term income.


So far, EbA activities cover 7,770 ha. This includes 4,403.5 ha of degraded lands rehabilitated (including 250ha of mangroves, which act as buffer zones from storm surges and floods, and 456.7ha of agricultural lands across 251 farm holdings), and 125.6kms of fire belts with a width of 10 meters established across all regions to protect the restored areas. No incidences of fires were subsequently reported across the protected areas during the period under review. The project also added water-buffering vegetation around the runoff water collection reservoir to reduce wind flow over the reservoir and thus reduce evaporation from the system. The system also facilitates reduction in runoff and enhances groundwater recharge through infiltration.


30 beekeeping businesses equipped with 300 beehives (10 per community) have been established. The 30 beekeeping businesses have created 398 jobs, 121 of these filled by women. The project also carried out significant business plan development and is commencing implementation of other natural resource-based enterprises focused on eco-tourism, andropogon harvesting, and wildlife farming.


Finally, ecosystem-based concepts have been integrated into two national-level policies: i.e., the agricultural five-year extension policy, and the Rural Development Policy. A total of $11.3m will be raised over 20 years for the National Forest Fund from taxes and licensing fees.


World Agroforestry/Cathy Watson

Batelling village, located in the lower river region of The Gambia, next to Kiang West National Park, faces many challenges: “Previously we had the fruits of ‘duto’, ‘kaba’ and ‘neto’; now wild fruits are almost extinct,” said villager Mamodou Sanyang. The former park ranger added that droughts had started five years ago, and bush fires were now more frequent. "Droughts came because of a shortage of trees. When I was young, we could go five years without a fire.”


Mother of nine, Sustayring Jang, adds, “millet harvests are diminishing and raids by primates are now routine.”


But they believe solutions are emerging under a project they call ‘EbA’. “We are going to enrich the forest in the park with edible wild plants,” says Lalisa Duguma, a senior researcher from the World Agroforestry. ‘This will reduce human-wildlife conflict. The forest around here is very degraded, and monkeys are missing what to eat. It has become a fight for survival for them too.”


After consultations with village members and the wildlife department, fire was identified as the major impediment.


By solving the problem of fire, the project potentially solves the raiding monkeys and loss of wild food, upon which 48% of rural Gambians rely, according to the baseline survey. And, in the future, the resurgent forest might even bring more rain.


The villagers are quietly euphoric. The project paid them to cut a firebreak and clear the vegetation around key species of trees. And in a major victory, the fire that used to scare them every dry season did not cross the firebreak. “Previously we used to be threatened but this year fire was contained. Due to lack of fire, there will be more fruit,” says Jang.


“EbA is really good,” says Mamodou. “It has created a fire belt to prevent fire intrusion and one of the benefits of not having fire is that animals will have an opportunity to eat the fruit and that’s a relief for them.”


Clearing vegetation from around key species also helps as “this tackles the fuel load on the soil surface. Within the same space, we also clear the tall elephant grass that connects the ground to the tree canopy to prevent the vertical expansion of flames engulfing it. Clearing the ground also protects young seedlings around mother trees. And when we created this 10-meter fire strip, the fire had nothing to feed upon and finished here,” he says, pointing to a line on the ground. “The park did not burn. Now we will get natural regeneration of trees.”

Contributed by

oscar.ivanova_41218's picture

oscar ivanova United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Other contributors

The Gambian Ministry of Environment Climate Change and Natural Resources (MECCNAR)