The Impacts of Saline-Water Intrusion on the Lives and Livelihoods of Gambian RiceGrowing Farmers
In most developing countries, agriculture plays a key role on the livelihood of generations of poor rural farmers. Climate change is projected to undermine agricultural production and exert more stress on the livelihood of many farmers, including in The Gambia. Rice Oryza sativa L is the main dietary food in The Gambia and River Gambia serves as the country’s major source of freshwater irrigation for tidal rice farming. River Gambia is seriously affected by saline water intrusion which in effect threatens the country’s main freshwater source. This phenomenon is blamed on climate change as a result of sea-level rise coupled with the worrying trend of increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall. Consequently, rice growers who solely depend on tidal irrigation from River Gambia have encountered low rice production over the past years. Saline-water intrusion has significantly impacted the livelihood of Gambian rice farmers and this has led to farmers not cultivating their fields any more in some instances. This paper attempts to review the impacts of saline-water intrusion on the livelihood of Gambian rice-growing farmers, particularly for those involved in swamp rice cultivation along River Gambia. It is noticed that with increased climate change, the tributaries of River Gambia will become more saline. The saline-water intrusion will significantly impact the quality of water in the tributaries which in consequence will greatly reduce the productivity of the rice plant which is not saline-tolerant. As a result of saline-water intrusion in the rice-growing tributaries, food security of the rice-growing farmers in these ecologies is expected to be threatened. This paper recommends series of measures necessary to help farmers adapt to the negative impacts of saline-water intrusion as a result of climate change. These measures include but are not limited to regular monitoring of the salinity of the river and its tributaries, the construction and/or reinforcement of new embankments/dikes that prevent intrusion of salinewater in the rice-growing areas, review government policies that relate to frequency and volume of water that is pumped from the river that could enhance saline-water intrusion in the river, development and provision of saline-tolerant rice cultivars, and increase training support for rice farmers on best cultural and land use practices.
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