Central River Division
Central River Division (formally MacCarthy Island
Division) with an area of 3038 sq. km is the largest Local
Government Area in the Gambia. The division consists of 10 districts
including MacCarthy Island with the headquarter in Janjanbureh
(formally Georgetown). Because of difficulties in logistics between the
north and south bank the division is sometimes considered as two Local
Government Areas, with Kuntaur the de facto headquarters for the north
bank and and Janjanbureh the headquarter for the south bank.
Formally called Lemaine
Island, the island was purchased by the British Crown in 1832 and
renamed MacCarthy Island after Sir Charles MacCarthy, the English
governor at the time. Shortly after, a Fort and trading post were built
on the Island. Up until the late 1960’s the Janjanbureh was the
unofficial “upcountry capital” with the countries only boarding
school. Since Independence, however, Georgetown has slowly lost to
Bansang as the Division’s de facto
economic capital primarily due to inaccessibility to the
Banjul and the rest of the country.
Figure 1. Map of Central River Division
Figure 2. Proportion of Division area in each district
Like the rest of the Gambia, accessibility to Banjul and Kombo, seem to influence the pattern of infrastructure development and population distribution. The CRD south excluding Georgetown occupying only 46% of the Division’s land area has 56% of the population. Since 1973 the proportion of the Division’s population located in the South Bank has increased steadily from 53% to 58%.
Figure 3. District population growth between 1963 and 2003
Central River Division as 10 districts including MacCarthy Island. Fulladu West is the largest and most populous district in the Division. With only 26% of the land area, the district is home to 39% of the total population in 2003.
Figure 4. Distribution of Division Population in 2003. Source. Central Statistics Department, Gambia.
Figure 5. District Population in 1993 and 2003. Source: National Population and Housing Census. Department of Central Statistics, The Gambia.
School, the nation's only boarding school is in Janjanbureh. Armitage
was established in 1923, as a place for district chiefs to send their
kids to school. As a result many of post-independent Gambian leaders
were alumni of Armitage High School. Until the 1990s Armitage was the only
institution of Higher learning in the Division leaving large areas of
the division without basic education facilities.
River Division is most notable for it livestock and rice lands. With
extensive freshwater floodplains on either side of river, the division
is ideal place for livestock production and irrigation farming. With a
majority Fula population, a group synonymous to cattle ownership, it is
estimated that over 50% of the countries cattle live in Central River.
Since the 1950s the Division has played important role in agricultural
development in the Gambia with the country's first agricultural
training training centers established in Fula Bantang and Sapu. Fula
Bantang was used for training farmers in the use the ox-plow and Sapu
used as experimental station in rice production. Since then successful
governments has focused on irrigation rice production in Central River
as the nation's only hope to achieving self-sufficiency in food
production. Jahally-Pacharr irrigation project and more recently the
Lowland Agriculture Development Programme (LADEP) are few of the
major agricultural irrigation projects in Central. In addition to
rice and livestock production, central River Division is second only
North Bank Division in groundnut production.
extensive floodplains and relatively low human population density also
meant that Central River is the countries last frontier to biodiversity
preservation. The Division has the only largest resident wild
hippopotamus population. In addition, the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation
Center is in Central River. The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center was
created to help help return orphan Chimps into the wild. As a result
the Division has the only wild Chimpanzee population. Also the Division
has one of the remaining intact wetlands in the country attracting a
significant number of migratory and resident bird population.
River has the largest concentration of the Stone Circles and shell
mounds in the Gambia. The largest of the Stone Circles are located in
the north bank of the division, Wassu circle the largest and most
famous in the country.
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