Onions for a better life
Hundreds of women farmers in The Gambia now have better market access to sell their onions, securing sales of almost $50,000. Isatou Drammeh is one of them.
Agriculture is critical to the economy of The Gambia. Recent data shows that the sector contributes over 24% to the country’s GDP and employs over 70% of the labour force, the majority being youth and women in rural areas.
Most of these women are involved in the production of onions. Despite a huge-scale production, several obstacles, most importantly access to markets, prevent them from reaping the full benefits of their labour. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 further exacerbated this challenge, widening the gender inequality gap and pushing many to poverty.
Isatou Drammeh is one of the onion farmers.
Gazing at her garden, Isatou says: "We used to invest our resources, energy and time in the production of onions only to sell at a low price.”
Isatou continues: “Most of us sold our onions to the buyers at a low price or on credit. We were in a dire situation. We did not have a good market for our onions, and there was nowhere to preserve them. Some of us could not get back our monies. It was frustrating.”
The high cost of transport meant that the farmers could not transport their produce to the market. Even worse, because there were no storage facilities, they were compelled to sell at any offered price.
Better market access for a better life
The International Trade Centre (ITC) through its Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)-funded Jokalente Market Platform project is partnering with relevant stakeholders to improve the market access for women onion farmers like Isatou.
The project mobilized partners and stakeholders who started assisting in grading, sorting, and weighing the onions. The project also tackled logistical challenges such as transportation in close collaboration with partners.
The North Bank Region of the country is known for its production of onions. Its women were part of a broader group of women farmers who benefited from ITC’s intervention. Thanks to the project, in 2022, the women sold over 6,000 bags of onions worth over $49,000.
According to Isatou, the sorting, grading and weighing of the onions was very helpful: “Before, we did not weigh our bags of onions. Of course, the buyers benefited from this; we did not.”
Now the women farmers earn more income. “I was able to sell over 100 bags since last summer,” says the 33-year-old. “I have never earned that much money with growing onions. Some of the others have earned even more than me.”
Next to being able to cover their daily expenses, the income is improving the women’s and their families’ lives. "We are using the money to pay for our children's clothing and schooling," says Isatou.
The regional marketing federations play a crucial role in improving the market linkages for the onion farmers as they offer sustainable options to the farmers. The project has enhanced the federations’ visibility, according to Fatoumatta Jagne, the president of the North Bank Region Marketing Federation.
She says: “Since ITC’s intervention more women groups have joined us. This has increased our income since each group must pay a subscription fee to join.” She added that they also get a share of the sales women farmers make.
ITC’s intervention is a win-win for all stakeholders. From the regional marketing federations, the women farmers to the importers, all stakeholders benefit from the intervention.
About the programme
The Jokalente Market Platform Project in The Gambia is funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and implemented by the International Trade Centre. It seeks to help women horticulture producers build forward better from the impact of Covid-19 through digitalization and market access.