About The Gambia

History

The Gambia, a country on the western coast of Africa, fronting the Atlantic Ocean. Senegal encloses the country on the other three sides. Straddling the Gambia River, the country extends eastward for about 320 km (200 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean. At its widest, this narrow country measures only about 50 km (30 mi) across.

The Gambia became a British colony during the 1800s. It gained its independence in 1965. Following independence, The Gambia was regarded by Westerners as a stable democracy until a bloodless military coup in 1994 removed its president. Yahya Jammeh, the military leader who became president after the coup, was subsequently reelected. In the December 2016 presidential elections, His Excellency President Adama Barrow was elected as the President of the 3rd Republic of The Gambia.

Name: Republic of The Gambia

Capital City: Banjul

Currency: Gambian Dalasi

Time Zone: GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) 

Climate

The Gambia has a tropical climate with well-defined rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season lasts from June to October. Agricultural production must be concentrated during this season. Rainfall varies considerably from year to year, averaging about 1,020 mm (about 40 in). But it ranges from less than 750 mm (30 in) to more than 1,500 mm (60 in).

The dry season extends from November to May. During March, April, and May, the harmattan, a hot, dry, dusty wind, frequently blows from the Sahara, bringing temperatures that exceed 38°C (100°F) to the interior of the country. Temperatures along with the coast range from 18°C (65°F) in the wet season to 32°C (90°F) in the dry season.

Natural Resources

The main natural resource of The Gambia is the River Gambia, one of Africa’s best navigable waterways. Small ocean-going vessels can go upstream for about 200 km (125 mi) from the coast, and smaller craft can continue for another 200 km. The country’s soil is mostly poor and sandy, except in the swamps along the rivers. However, this sandy soil is ideally suited for the cultivation of peanuts, upon which the economy depends. Fish are increasing in economic importance. Seismic surveys have indicated the possibility that petroleum and natural gas exist offshore.

Plants and Animals

The natural vegetation of the upland areas consists of wooded, but open, savanna. However, intensive clearing for agriculture has destroyed most of the original tree cover. The government has set aside some areas as forest parks and has planted trees in other areas. Mangroves grow in abundance along the Gambia River, and oil palms have been planted on plantations.

Wild animal life has become scarce in The Gambia, but the birdlife is exceptionally rich, especially in the large mangroves near the rivers. The animals most commonly seen include monkeys, baboons, wild boar, and several species of antelope. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles can be seen in the central and upper zones of the Gambia River. Lions and hyenas live in the Abuko Nature Reserve, 24 km (15 miles) from Banjul.

The People

Population: 1,857,181 (2013 estimate)

Official language: English

A variety of ethnic groups live side by side in The Gambia while preserving individual languages and traditions. The main ethnic groups are the Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke), Fula, and Wolof. The Mandinka, the largest ethnic group, make up more than 40 per cent of the country’s inhabitants. The Fula (Fulani), about 18 per cent of Gambians, predominate in the eastern part of the country. The Wolof, about 16 per cent of the people, live mainly in Banjul and the western region. Smaller groups include the Jola, who live in the western region, and the Sarahulleh, whose rulers introduced Islam into the region in the 12th century. There is also a small Creole community, the Aku, who are descended from liberated slaves and from European traders who married African women. Most of The Gambia’s people live in rural areas.