Rice is the staple food in The Gambia. The average annual consumption per capita is 70-110kg. Domestic production lags behind by 60 %, which is met by importation. The national average yield is 2 T/ha in the lowlands, and 1 T/ha in the upland under rain-fed conditions.
In lowland rice farming, water control is the most important management practice that determines the efficacy of other production inputs. Poor drainage that keeps soil saturated is detrimental to crops and degrades soil quality. In many rice irrigation systems in The Gambia, water control is highly inefficient. Drainage mechanisms are dysfunctional or inadequate because farmers believe that rice grows best when water is supplied in abundance. Poor drainage mechanisms makes it necessary for farmers to transplant tall, very old seedlings, usually 4 - 6 weeks old, and 3 – 4 seedlings per hill.
Typical lowland rice field in The Gambia SRI field in Sapu, The Gambia
fields are kept continuously flooded and are flood-free only at time of
harvest. This practice is not only
wasteful in terms of water use efficiency, but also leads to leaching of
soluble nutrients, blocks aerobic soil microbial activities and biological nitrogen
fixation as well as slows mineralization and nutrient release from the soil
complexes. New management practices that
address lowland rice production constraints in The Gambia are needed. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI),