ResilienSEA in Gambia
Covering an area of 11300 km², Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa. The country is an enclave within Senegal, bordered by 80 km of Atlantic coast and crossed by the Gambia River. Gambia has a unique and luxuriant biodiversity of flora and fauna, partly due to the extensive mangrove swamps and estuarine habitats. One can observe more than 280 different species of birds, rare mammals such as hippopotamus, various reptiles and a multitude of fish.
Gambia is also a dynamic country, currently undergoing profound social, economic and political changes. The efforts initiated by the government to democratize the regime and to modernize the economic structures, are inevitably intertwined with environmental preservation. Human development and economic growth increasingly depend on coastal and marine ecosystems and their capacity to deliver services.
Most of urban areas, such as the capital city of Banjul, are located along the Gambia River and the Atlantic coast. Cities are steadily growing along with internal migrations of a young population. During the last decades, large investments have been made into eco-tourism which benefits coastal communities and represent 12% of the GDP. Additionally, agriculture and fishing employ 70% of the population. Along the littoral, rice fields, artisanal and industrial fisheries are crucial for economic and food security.
However, these developments combined with the effects of climate change put even more pressure on coastal ecosystems. Gambia’s coastal and marine environments have seen a drastic loss of biodiversity, including the decline of fish resources, rapid erosion, increasing pollution levels from plastic, chemical substances and oil. Eventually, these degradations hinder on the country’s current and future well-being.
Considerable commitment and initiatives were made by successive governments to preserve Gambia’s unique environment. In total, eight reserves, representing 4.27% of Gambia’s territory, aim at protecting the biodiversity and improve their resilience to climate change. This is supported by several national programmes (e.g. National Adaptation Programme for Action) and international commitments (e.g. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Considering the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems, specific policies and management are needed. This includes the protection of seagrasses which remain largely unexplored and unprotected.