The Gambia: A Profile
Official name: The Republic of the Gambia
Capital City: Banjul (35,061). Banjul is also the Port City
Location: Gambia is located on the west coast of Africa between latitude 13 and 14 degrees north and 13 and 17 degrees west. The Gambia is a virtual enclave in the Republic of Senegal. The country is surrounded by Senegal on North, East and South.
Total Area: 11,300 km2 . The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa.
Population: 1,360,681 (2003). The Gambia is one of the densely populated countries in West Africa. More than half the population is under the age of 18 years.
Climate: The climate of the Gambia is tropical with distinct dry and wet season. The dry season is between November and May. The dry season weather in the Gambia is influenced by the northeasterly dry winds locally called Hamattan from the Sahara. Temperatures in the cool dry season vary between 70oF (21oC) and 80oF (27oC) with relative humidity between 30% and 60%. The wet season is in the summer months beginning June until October. Mean annual rainfall ranges between 1000mm in the southwest to less than 800mm in the northeast. Over 90% of the precipitation between occurs July and September.
Terrain: The topography of the Gambia is dominated by the River Gambia, which runs east to west through the entire length of the country. The terrain is dominantly floodplain flanked on both banks by low laterite hills. Over 78% of the Gambia is below 20 meter above sea level and no where in the Gambia is elevation greater than 60m.
Natural Resources: With no commercially viable mineral resources, land and water resources are central to Gambian life. Agriculture (cropping and livestock husbandry) remain the major provider for most Gambians engaging over 70% of the active population and contributing over 25 % of the GDP. More than 80% of domestic energy comes from woodfuels. Expansion of croplands, overgrazing, wildfires and uncontrolled wood collection have reduced woodland area from about 70% in 1960s to less than 9% in 2000.
The River Gambia and the tributaries are central to the Gambia’s water resources. Running the entire length of the country the river provides vital socioeconomic, cultural, scientific, aesthetic and environmental values. Since the arrival of Europeans in 1450s, the River Gambia has been a major trade and transportation route to the African hinterland, transporting everything from bee-wax, Ivory, iron, gold, slaves to groundnuts and ecotourists. Since 1980s river transportation has been dominated by passenger traffic across the river. Irrigation agriculture (tidal or mechanized) is the highest user of the river water. Western Gambia in general and the urban centers in particular depend entirely on groundwater resources for domestic and industrial use.
The country’s geographic location combined with the extensive wetland systems result in a wide range of habitat types supporting diverse plant and animal species. Approximately 530 plant species, 108 species of mammals, and over 540 bird species (a third of these birds are Palearctic migrants) are known to exist in the Gambia. The sheltered coastline is known to be breeding and nursery grounds for a diverse number of fish and marine wildlife.
Industries: Manufacturing industry in the Gambia includes ground processing, soap making Banjul Breweries, cottage industries and a foundry. There is also cement bagging and bicycle assembling facilities. There is also the small-scale light industry (furniture, fish processing, metal works) and carving. Tourism in the Gambia is second to only agriculture in its contribution to the GDP. With most of the tourist visiting the country for the beaches, fishing and birding excursions, the coastal and marine fisheries are particularly important. Increase in tourism over the past 30 years has resulted in the development of over more than half of the open coastline.
Natural Hazards: Most frequent natural hazards in the Gambia are wild fires, droughts, coastal erosion, flash floods, dust storms and grasshopper outbreaks. Since 1970 recurring droughts have been experienced throughout the country along with increased incidence of wildfires, and dust storms. Since mid 1980s incidence of dust storms lasting more than three days have become annual events. Over the past 20 years sections of the coastline have disappeared between Banjul and Tanjeh causing millions of Dalasi in property damage. More recently flashfloods have become a annual occurrence in many parts of the country causing extensive crop and property damage.
Last revised: 12/16/2008 14:18
Home | Up | Greater
Banjul Area | Western Division | Lower
River Division | North Bank Division | Central
River | Upper River