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Lower River Division


1,556 sq. km

Divisional Headquarter



72,167 (2003)

Largest City

Soma (11,050)

Lower River Division with a population of 72,167 is the least populated division in the Gambia. Until late 1960s when it became its own division, North Bank Division was part of Lower River Division. With Mansakonko (king's hill or government hill in Mandinka), LRD has 6 districts with Kiang West District the largest. Like all other divisions east of Western Division, the the division has suffered from steady out-migration of population to either Banjul, Western Division and KMC.

Kiang West is the largest and least populated district. Jarra Central home to both Mansakonko and Soma, the economic capital of the division is the most populous district. Jarra Central has experienced rapid expansion in its population throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The rapid growth was driven in part by its role as one of the hubs on either side of the Bambatenda-Yelitanda crossing along the Trans-Gambia Highway. The Trans-Gambia Highway is the main trunk road linking Cassamance and the rest of Senegal. During the Senegambia Confederation, Jarra Central and the town of Soma in particular has seen a rapid increase in cross-border commerce and trade fueling the rapid influx of people into the area. Eight of the 10 largest settlement in the Division are in Jarra Central.


Proportion of division are in each district

Population distribution in each district


Except for the Technical Training Institute in Mansakonko and the Jenoi Agricultural Station, Medical Research Council's and the International Trypanotolerance Center field stations in Keneba, the LRD, like other Divisions outside Kombo has little to offer. Until 1990s, there was only one  High School in the entire Division and two Junior Secondary School. 


The LRD is a primarily agricultural division with most people engaged in the production of groundnuts, millet and rice. Significant amount of the rice cultivated in the LRD is grown in Jarra where freshwater is abundant. LRD also has a large population of cattle population.

One of the oldest European Trading Posts and Missionary, Tancrowall (Tankular), and numerous forts (Tatto in Mandinka) are in LRD.  Tankular was one of the oldest Portuguese settlements and missionaries beyond James Island. Although much is not known about the descendants of this people, Tankular in the 1700s was described by European travelers to the Gambia as a “Place of Great resort and richest in the whole of the River” (Moore 1730). 

The largest National Park in the Gambia, the Kiang West National Park is in Lower River. Established in 1987, the National Park has many of rare and endangered wildlife species in the country’s including the Nile crocodile, clawless otter, marsh mongoose, Sitatunga, leopards and West African manatees. Over 250 species of bird have been recorded in KWNP including 21 raptors: vultures, harrier eagles, hawks and falcons.


Historic Trading Posts, Forts, National Park and Police Posts in Lower River Division.



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Last updated: 12/16/08.