The Gambia

Despite its steady economic growth and improvements in access to basic education, The Gambia remains to be one of the poorest countries in the world. Agriculture, the mainstay of the Gambian economy, is undiversified and production has reduced in recent years due to the effects of climate change.

Another sector of the economy, tourism, is small and vulnerable to external economic and political changes. It is also one of many industries affected by the country’s poor infrastructure. Poverty is widespread and is predominantly rural at 73.9% in comparison to urban poverty at 32.7% (World Development Indicators, The World Bank, 2010). The rate of unemployment in The Gambia is a major cause for concern especially for young people, women and people living with disabilities.

Inadequate access to health and education services is a significant problem in The Gambia. While there has been an increase in the children enrolled in lower primary education, literacy levels still remain low at 46%. The quality of the basic education, being a prerequisite for attaining quality skills training for youth and adults is still a concern.

The Gambia will not meet the health Millennium Development Goal targets, due to the state of its high maternal and child mortality rates. The under-5 mortality rate is very high at 100.6 per thousand live births, the infant mortality rates 57.6 per 1000 live births respectively, and the maternal mortality ratio currently at 360 per 100,000 births. (World Development Indicators, the World Bank, 2010)

VSO has worked in The Gambia since 1959 in the area of education, disability and livelihoods to tackle these social issues.


VSO is working government ministries, training institutes, local education NGOs and teacher unions to increase the capacity of the education sector to and thereby improving the quality of inclusive basic education for all boys and girls.

We do this by:

  • improving student performance through supporting pre-service and in-service teacher training

  • enhancing education management through building management capacities of the education sector at school, regional and national levels

  • conducting research in collaboration with in-country partners for the advocacy of better welfare for teachers and the wider education sector


VSO is working to improve the lives of disabled people, women and men, boys and girls in rural and urban areas through economic empowerment and enhancement of service delivery.

We support disabled people's organisations and service providers to improve the skills of staff and systems for increase the quality of services delivery to persons with disabilities in rural and urban areas. We also support income increases for disabled people’s organisations and their members through the development of small scale livelihoods activities in urban and rural areas.

To support the participation of persons with disabilities, we raise awareness and advocate for their inclusion in family and community life. We also work to improve the legal framework for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities by advocating for:

  • the adoption and implementation of the disability policy

  • the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by government.

What are VSO’s future plans in this country?

VSO plans to work with partners to improve the participation and engagement of young Gambians in the development of their country. We’ll also provide support urban and rural youths alike, farmers and rural women
to become economically independent either through gainful employment or self employment.

We aim to:

  • increase employment opportunities for young people

  • increase business capacity of small and medium enterprises

  • promote active citizenship and youth engagement when developing our programmes.

Data source:

United Nations Development Programme, 2010. International Human Development Indicator Database. Available at: Accessed: 15 November 2012

Contact us

Get in touch with VSO The Gambia at:
PO Box 677, Banjul, The Gambia

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1.78 million
Capital city:
GDP per capita:
HDI ranking:
168 out of 187
Life expectancy:
58.5 years

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