i. Climate change context
According to the World Bank, The Gambia is vulnerable to variations in weather, river flooding, water scarcity, and coastal flooding, which constrain agricultural production. The Gambia’s 3rd National Communication (2020) notes that the country's vulnerability to climate change variability and natural hazards directly impacts its economy.
According to the Global Carbon Atlas (2019), The Gambia is a low-carbon emitting country. With a population of slightly over 2.4 million (World Bank, 2020), The Gambia had carbon emissions of 0.3tCO2 per person in 2019. Climate Action Tracker notes that rising agricultural and industrial production puts the country's carbon emissions at risk of increasing and leads the country away from carbon neutrality. However, in the September 2021 update of the Climate Action Tracker, The Gambia was the only country globally with targets in line with limiting global heating to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels by 2030.
The Gambia ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994 and is designated as a Non-Annex I (non-industrialized) Party under the Convention. The country ratified the Kyoto Protocol in June 2001, accepted the Doha Amendment in 2016, and signed and ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016.
ii. Relevant government agencies
Different government agencies are responsible for climate change responses in The Gambia. One of the main government entities responsible for climate change communication and education is the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, which has included climate change in its name since 2016. The Ministry is responsible for overseeing and coordinating development and implementation of environmental, climate change, and natural resource management policies and programs.
The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources has a Secretariat that is responsible for climate change. The Climate Change Secretariat is mandated to, “along with other sectoral ministries, plan, implement and monitor effective activities to promote public climate change education” (para. 12). The Secretariat is also charged with developing and implementing the country’s national climate change communication strategy and to provide awareness campaigns to increase support amongst stakeholders and the public for the National Climate Change Policy (2016). The Secretariat is also mandated to develop a formal network of Climate Change Focal Points in each of the country’s sectoral ministries.
The Gambia's Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources is the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point, with one dedicated person being responsible for coordinating national ACE actions, such as liaising with external bodies including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources houses two departments, the Department of Fisheries, which is responsible for managing, developing, and conserving the country’s fisheries, and the Department of Water Resources, which is responsible for ensuring sustainable water management in the country. The former Department does not reference climate or climate change in its mandate or vision statements. However, the vision of the Department of Water Resources includes “to achieve a sustainable water resources, weather and climate management system for all by all” (n.p.). The Department of Water Resources mandate includes the responsibility to “observe, monitor and predict the weather and climate over The Gambia for the protection of lives and properties, contribute to sustainable development & meeting international commitments” (n.p.).
According to a study from 2013, climate change in The Gambia is steered by Regional Coordinating Committees at the regional level. Community-level institutions are key to ensuring access to climate change activities and are very important for day-to-day implementation of climate action.
Education and communication
The Ministry for Basic and Secondary Education holds responsibility for incorporating climate change issues in the curricula of schools.
The Gambia’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology has the objective to “ensure sustainable environmental growth” in higher education, research, science and technology.
iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans
In 1994, The Gambia approved the National Environmental Management Act, which mandates the government to take necessary legal measures to protect the environment, including the coastline and wetlands. The Act is the basis for all subsequent climate change-related policies and plans in The Gambia.
The 2003 Biodiversity Act, which provides the legal framework for sustainably conserving, regulating, maintaining, and administering the country’s biodiversity, wildlife, resources in natural and cultivated areas, does not include any references to climate change.
The country adopted the National Disaster Management Policy in 2007. The Policy sets objectives for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts for The Gambia, and brings issues of disaster risk management into the public discourse. Notably, it emphasizes raising community awareness and mobilizing action on climate change issues.
The Gambia adopted the National Climate Change Policy in 2016, which "provides the framework for managing climate risks, building institutions and capacities, and identifying new opportunities for climate-resilient sustainable development" (p. 4). This Policy guides most of the country's climate change actions and is frequently mentioned in The Gambia's external climate reporting.
Another essential climate change-related policy in The Gambia is the 2017 Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Policy (2017–2026). The Policy’s objective is the “maximization of poverty reduction and enhancement of food, income and nutrition securities through the optimal utilization of the resources of the sector consistent with safeguarding the integrity of the environment” (p. Xiii). The Policy includes an Environmental Management sub-policy, which emphasizes the importance of “mainstreaming/incorporation of climate change aspects into the [Environmental Management Policy] documents including sectoral and sub-sectoral acts, programmes, projects and strategies” (p. 60).
In 2017, The Gambia initiated the Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience, a multisectoral initiative that coordinates climate actions by a range of government ministries, non-governmental organizations, and faith groups.
Other environmental documents that incorporate climate change communication and education elements include the 2015 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015-2020, the 2015 National Adaptation Plan, and the 2011 Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. The National Development Plan 2018-2021 includes a focus on climate change. The National Adaptation Plan seeks to build upon the foundation laid by the National Adaptation Programme of Action, which was published in 2007.
The Low Emissions Climate Resilient Development Strategy of The Gambia 2018–2030 is a key document in the country’s initiatives for climate action. It includes awareness-raising and climate education as key components for climate action in the country.
Published in 2021, The Gambia 2050 Climate Vision includes a strategic priority to foster climate-resilience and notes the importance of the education sector in reaching the country’s climate change and sustainability goals. The Vision’s aims include changing mindsets through environmental education and climate literacy, with proposed actions to:
Support efforts to incorporate environmental issues in school curricula at all levels to inculcate the right attitudes and build an informed society [and] undertake sensitisation and awareness raising for the general public to enhance engagement and secure access to decision-making and information. (p. 21)
According to its 1st Nationally Determined Contributions (2016), The Gambia aspires to take a multisectoral approach and encourages community-led climate change actions. This aspiration resonates with the intentions of the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (2017).
Education and communication
While there is no sovereign climate change communication and education strategy in The Gambia, a number of education policies and plans integrate climate concerns.
The country’s most recent National Curriculum Framework (2011) guides the country on curriculum questions. It references environmental education and gives space for climate change education. For example, children learn about climate and weather in Grades 5 to 9 and about animals/plants, climate, and resource interactions in Grades 7 to 9.
The Gambia’s formal education sector is directed by the 2016 Education Sector Policy 2016-2030, which acknowledges that environmental issues such as climate change need to be incorporated into education systems, including in curriculum and training.
The Education Sector Policy’s implementation plan is the Education Sector Strategic Plan (2016), set to span 2016-2030 alongside the Policy. Programme Area 2 of the Plan focuses on the environment including the effects of climate change. The Life Skills Education Programme includes dimensions on the environment such as climate change. The Plan provides practical pathways for how climate change can be integrated into formal education curricula. Apart from developing primary and secondary education curricula that attend to environmental issues, the Plan also encourages higher education institutions to incorporate climate actions in their teaching, learning, and research foci.
In its 3rd National Communication (2020), the country reports that communication and education are vital strategies for leading climate change actions. As such, the government commits to advance its school curriculum and public programs to bring the issues of environmental degradation, climate change, and global warming to the fore.
iv. Terminology used for climate change communication and education
The Gambia’s climate change-related policies, laws, and plans refer to climate change communication and education as distinct from other climate change actions. For example, the country’s 2016 National Climate Change Policy uses ‘awareness’ and ‘action learning’ in reference to communication and education within climate change and other environmental emergencies.
In education and training contexts, The Gambia uses the terms ‘environmental awareness’ and ‘environmental education.’ According to The Gambia's 2016 Education Sector Policy 2016-2030, the government commits to ensuring environmental issues, including climate change, are incorporated in primary and secondary education. In this regard, the country's Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has “developed and trained trainers on a comprehensive training manual on environment education” (Education Sector Policy, 2016, p. 31). The Gambia’s Curriculum Framework for Basic Education (2011), includes a Social and Environmental Studies subject that uses ‘environmental education’ as an umbrella term for environment-related learning but does not refer directly to climate change.
In its 3rd National Communication (2020) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, The Gambia uses terms such as ‘climate change adaptation,’ ‘mitigation,’ and ‘awareness.’ Likewise, in its Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC, the country used “intensive and extensive education, awareness-raising and development and implementation of socioeconomic research as it relates to climate change” (2016, p. 9).
v. Budget for climate change education and communication
According to the World Bank, The Gambia spent around 11% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education in 2018. In 2021, the government increased the education sector allocation from US$92 million (GMD4.69 billion) in 2020 to US$103 million (GMD5.26 billion) in 2021. However, there are no specific allocations for climate change communication and education. This information is also not included in official reporting documents such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (2016).
In 2021, the government also allocated US$11 million (GMD655 million) towards the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources. This includes activities geared towards promoting sustainable tourism.
In its 3rd National Communication (2020), The Gambia reports that it intends to channel considerable financial and technical resources to support public participation in climate change actions through activities implemented by various government agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources.
i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education
In its introduction section, the most recent National Curriculum Framework (2011) for primary and secondary education levels notes the environment, including climate change, is a critical developmental challenge for the country. A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile. While the Framework does not directly mention climate change outside of the introduction section, the need for learners to be able to participate in a ‘rapidly changing world’ is described in the Home Economics, Creative and Performing Arts and Handicraft, and Social and Environmental Studies subjects. For example, climate change-related topics are addressed through the Social and Environmental Studies subject, which includes a focus on sustainable development, climate and weather, and environmental management. Social and Environmental Studies encourages both cognitive and social learning of climate-related issues in its aim to:
Help young people make sense of a complex and dynamically changing world. [Social and Environmental Studies] will explain... how people and their environment interact and how a diverse range of economies, societies and environments are interconnected. It will build on learners’ own experiences to investigate places on all scales, from the personal to the global. (p. 22)
The National Curriculum Framework (2011) also discusses climate issues in terms of their impact on agriculture and food systems. In particular, Grade 7 to 9 students learn about “animals, climate and resource interactions” (2011, p. 23) with a focus on how environmental sustainability is crucial for the long-term production of food and fibre. The National Curriculum Framework declares global warming as one of the key threats to the country:
The coastal areas of The Gambia have been experiencing sea intrusion, which has eroded its coastal lines and caused internal migration and change of the landscape. The changes in rainfall pattern resulting from climate change have caused flooding and loss of agricultural land and human settlements. The net impact of recent flooding includes outbreak of diseases such as cholera and malaria. (2011, p. 8)
A study by Owa et al. (2019) recently audited The Gambia’s secondary curriculum and found that it lacked climate change content. For example, the study noted that the curriculum was missing content on the impacts of climate change on human health (including the spread of diseases), ecosystems, and renewable energy.
The 2016 Education Sector Strategic Plan indicates that a Life Skills Education Program has been offered across all primary and secondary education levels. The Program’s subject areas align with the Sustainable Development Goals and include content on the environment and climate change. The Program focuses on cognitive, social, and behavioural learning by helping students to develop “not only knowledge and skills but also behaviors (adaptive and positive) relevant to their self-fulfilment in a changing social and economic environment” (p. 110).
In 2006, The Gambia’s National Environment Agency implemented a project called the Training of Information Programme on the Environment to develop ‘environmental education’ at the primary school level and help children change their ways of perceiving the environment. Further details and outcomes of the Program do not appear to be publicly available.
The Gambia's Nationally Determined Contributions (2016) highlights that education, training, and public awareness constitute the first pillar of mainstreaming climate change in the country's development programs. The Nationally Determined Contributions also acknowledge that “the issue of knowledge and education on climate change remains a challenge. Therefore, the Government will continue prioritizing basic/primary education, while expanding access to secondary, higher and tertiary education with emphasis on climate change” (p. 11).
The Gambia’s 3rd National Communication (2020) highlights the government’s intention to further improve climate change education within public schools. The National Communication also acknowledges that education at pre-primary, primary, and secondary levels is crucial in combating climate change through building widespread climate change adaptation and mitigation knowledge.
ii. Climate change in teacher training and teacher resources
The 2016 Education Sector Policy indicates that teacher training is crucial for meaningful implementation of The Gambia's education aspirations, which include incorporating climate change issues into curricula; however, the link between teacher training and climate change issues is not directly established in the Policy.
In response to the Education Sector Policy, the country's 2016 National Climate Change Policy confirmed development of a new primary education curriculum that incorporates climate change issues, and indicates that teacher training materials has also been revised accordingly. The National Climate Change Policy links teacher training efforts to the National Environment Agency’s pre-existing environmental education and communication initiatives, such as promoting environmental/climate-change education in primary schools.
The University of The Gambia, one of the leading providers of teacher training in the country, offers undergraduate teacher education in Agriculture, Geography, and Sciences, which incorporate environmental concerns such as climate change.
The Gambia has developed some teacher training resources to support the country’s efforts to improve climate change education in formal institutions. For example, in 2006, The Gambia provided a simplified version of its 1st National Communication (2003) to educational institutions across the country to help teachers deliver climate change education (UNFCCC, n.d.).
iii. Climate change in higher education
The Gambia has made efforts to integrate climate change content into its higher education programs. The Ministry for Basic and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology jointly developed the country's 2016 Education Sector Policy 2016-2030. This Policy indicates that, "Higher education institutions will be encouraged to develop curricula contents that cater to peace education, global citizenship education, and sustainable development, including environment and climate change" (p. 18). The Policy emphasizes cognitive and behavioural learning dimensions in relation to supporting students’ understanding and ability to respond to “global warming and sea level rise; coastal and marine degradation, loss of biodiversity, and issues of waste and waste management” (p. 119).
Currently, higher education in The Gambia is guided by the 2014 National Tertiary and Higher Education Policy 2014-2023. However, the Tertiary and Higher Education Policy (2014), which was developed before the Education Sector Policy (2016), does not mention any learning or research intentions related to climate change or environmental education. Nonetheless, there are now master’s and doctoral programs offered on climate change-related topics in The Gambia. For example, the University of The Gambia has hosted a Doctoral Research Programme in Climate Change and Education since 1999. The program was developed as part of the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use Capacity Building Programme, which hosts the Graduate Studies Programme through a collaboration between 12 West African universities and German institutions. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research invested US$2.6 million (EUR 2.2 million) into the program between 2011 and 2019. The University of The Gambia also began a Full PhD Scholarship on Climate Change and Education for 2020/21 academic year. The West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use also offered a Master’s of Science in Climate Change and Education at the University of The Gambia but the program was put on hold at the time of this review.
In its 3rd National Communication (2020), The Gambia reports that the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology collaborated with the University of The Gambia to provide seminars on climate change to researchers and community members with support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This activity resonates with commitments in The Gambia’s Nationally Determined Contributions (2016) to promote research and community engagement as part of climate change actions in the higher education sector. For instance, the Nationally Determined Contributions states that “The Government plans to embark on research and provision of higher education on climate change-related disciplines, such as adapted land use” (2016, p. 19).
iv. Climate change in training and adult learning
Adult learning and training are emphasised in different climate change policies in The Gambia. For example, the National Climate Change Policy (2016) aims to mainstream climate change content into formal and non-formal education, as well as adult literacy classes. The Policy further states that “The Gambia will promote and encourage a more institutionalised approach to capacity building, strengthening existing education and training institutions, where possible, to take on the role of ‘training the trainers’ and to develop specially tailored modules for key stakeholders” (p. 55).
The National Climate Change Policy lists a number of training offerings, for example, for farmers on water use and for health workers and social service sectors. One key program is to institutionalize a “climate change training programme across the sectors” (p. 55).
The Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (2017) provides information on training programs organized by the government together with other stakeholders. For example, it highlights youth vocational training schemes supported by the European Development Fund, which gives young people access to training programs for climate-related professional careers.
The government realizes that climate change issues cannot be dealt with only through formal education. As such, The Gambia College offers adult literacy programs as an opportunity to bring climate change issues to people who are no longer in school. According to The Gambia's 2017 Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience, the country has focused on "integration of climate change into adult literacy programmes" through The Gambia College (p. 12).
In the 3rd National Communication (2020), The Gambia reports that "Non-academic training is also provided to different target groups to boost individual and group awareness of, familiarity with, and competencies in specific climate risk and management themes" (p. xxix). Such groups include youth, women, and rural people.
Finally, the country's 2016 Nationally Determined Contributions mentions adult and non-formal education as key areas for strengthening climate change learning.
i. Climate change and public awareness
In addition to formal climate change education, the country also focuses on empowering the community on climate change issues through several public awareness programs.
The Gambia's 2016 National Climate Change Policy emphasizes that public awareness provides a strong foundation for bringing climate change issues to public discourse. The Gambia’s National Environment Agency project is an example of a public awareness program that deployed public communications about climate change in rural communities via radio and television in around 2006. At around the same time, The Gambia’s previous Ministry of Forestry and the Environment held three television programs with presentations from climate experts and a Q&A with the public.
More recently, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources has been implementing the Community-Based Sustainable Dryland Forest Management project (2016-2022), funded by the Global Environment Facility. One of the project’s objectives is to increase awareness of the impact of climate change on forests and provide information on appropriate adaptation strategies within northern communities in The Gambia.
In its Strategic Plan (2019-2022), the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources indicates that it intends to hold public awareness meetings and awareness campaigns targeted towards reducing activities that contribute to climate change and environmental degradation, such as unsafe use of chemicals in agriculture.
In its 3rd National Communication (2020), The Gambia reports that climate change public awareness programs are having some impact, although many implementation challenges remain, including the availability of continued financial support for programs.
ii. Climate change and public access to information
One of the key objectives in the National Climate Change Policy (2016) is to provide quality information about climate change, including early warning systems. The Policy planned for the development of a web-based Climate Information Platform; however, no further information on the Platform was found during this review.
The Gambia’s primary source of climate change information is the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources. The Ministry’s website has a Resource Centre section with information and publications on climate change in The Gambia.
One of the four Pillars of the country’s Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (2017) is “Climate-resilient land use mapping, planning and information systems” (p. 82). The document indicates the government has deemed it essential to not only inform the public about climate change, but to also adapt and (where possible) mitigate certain aspects of climate change by providing more access to information.
Many government organizations in The Gambia use social media. For example, the National Environment Agency Facebook page conveys information to the public, highlighting the importance of social media in communicating to the country’s citizens about climate change.
The Gambia’s 2016 Nationally Determined Contributions indicates the importance of providing the public with access to information and data on climate change in rural communities, mentioning that the country is seeking to ensure “climate information services to the agriculture sector and dissemination to wider rural communities will be promoted” (p. 11).
iii. Climate change and public participation
The Gambia has adopted public participation in decision-making as a key strategy for climate change action, with a special focus on engaging women and youth. For example, around 2006, The Gambia’s National Environment Agency organized discussion groups with local governments and community groups, including youth and women, to explore climate change issues.
Additionally, in 2010, a non-government organization called the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change, coordinated several public engagement events in The Gambia, including the 2010 Global Week of Climate Action and a national forum to consult youth on climate change issues.
The 2016 National Climate Change Policy also particularly emphasizes youth participation. For example, the Policy states that “Youth represent a vitally important sector in response to climate change, and their meaningful participation in planning climate change responses should be ensured” (p. 38). The Policy indicates that youth could be involved better in climate change action through activities that appeal to their age. The Policy also highlights a comprehensive consultancy process that was used to develop the Policy and which will be used again in the future.
i. Country monitoring
Country monitoring of climate change communication and education is not assigned to any specific ministry, department, or agency in The Gambia. Instead, data collected by various government entities and international bodies are used to monitor and report on climate change communication and education progress. The Department of Water Resources’ 2017 Report on Low Emissions Climate Resilient Development Strategy of The Gambia 2018-2030 and the 2015 Report on the Collection of Additional Data and Information for the UNDP Concept on Enhancing Resilience of Coastal and Estuarine/Riverine Economies and Livelihoods of the Districts Of Serrekunda, Jokadu and Upper Baddibu to Climate Change are examples of prior country monitoring of climate change actions.
The Gambia's Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources periodically issues reports on climate change, which has highlighted the role of education and communication in climate change action. For example, the Ministry's 2017 Mitigation Technology Needs Assessment Report highlights that "positive impacts of technology on sectoral [greenhouse gas] mitigation could be significantly augmented through climate change education" (p. 10).
The Low Emissions Climate Resilient Development Strategy of The Gambia 2018–2030 set up a Monitoring and Evaluation System to monitor the country’s efforts and raise awareness by providing information about already achieved goals. The System develops indicators based on institutional needs and are a mixture of process-based and outcome-based indicators. The Strategy also established so-called win-win and/or synergistic indicators, such as improvements in passenger vehicle emissions.
The Gambia Institute of Statistics also collects data on basic, secondary, and higher education (such as enrolment, completion rates, and number of schools) and the environment (including environmental indicators related to CO2 emissions, consumption, biodiversity, and resource use) and is the entity that collects information on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This review was unable to locate publicly available information on monitoring of SDGs 4.7 (sustainability education) or 13.3 (climate change education).
In its 3rd National Communication (2020), The Gambia reported that, "At the sub-national level, entities established under the Local Government Act (2002) are empowered to play lead and proactive roles in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Local Climate Change Action Plans" (p. 20). These roles do support monitoring of climate change actions, although reporting is rare.
ii. MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined the 2011 National Curriculum Framework (NCF )and the 2016 Education Sector Plan (ESP, for references to climate change, sustainability, biodiversity, and the environment.
In the NCF, ‘climate change’ is mentioned once, ‘environment’ mentioned 11 times, ‘sustainability’ mentioned once, and ‘biodiversity’ also mentioned once.
In the ESP, ‘climate change’ is mentioned six times, ‘environment’ mentioned eight times, ‘biodiversity’ mentioned once, and ‘sustainability’ is not mentioned.
This section will be updated as the MECCE project develops.