SR article

Geography of The Gambia

In this article, the geography of The Gambia will be briefly illustrated.

The Gambia is located in West Africa. It is completely enclosed by Senegal, except where it borders the North Atlantic Ocean, as can be seen in the figure. The Gambia River, where the country is named after, runs through the country from east to west. The country is at no point wider than 50 km, except for the coastline that has a width of 80 km. With an area of 11,000 square km (of which 1,100 km2 is covered by the river), it is the smallest country in Africa. Compared to the Netherlands, it is only 1/4th of the size.

56% of the country is used for agricultural purposes, while almost everything else is forest. The terrain is mainly flood plain of the river, flanked by some hills. These hills are only about 30 m high.


In july 2016, The Gambia had a population of approximately 2 million people, of which 500.000 people live in Banjul, the capital. Over 37% of the Gambian people are aged below 14, while only 7% is older than 55 years. This is party due to a mortality rate of 62 children per 1000 births, opposed to 3,6 per 1000 in the Netherlands. The life expectancy, however, is about 65 years old.

The Gambia has many different ethnic groups, of which the largest are the Mandinka (34% of the population), the Fulani (22%) and the Wollof (12%). All of these different tribes have different languages. Although English is the official language, a lot of people speak only their tribe language. Probably partly because of this,  45% of the people is illiterate. 95% of the inhabitants are muslim, irrespectively of the tribe they belong to.

16% of the children under the age of 5 is underweight, which is also quite a high number.


The Gambia is one of Africa's poorest countries. In the human development index of the United Nations, it ranks 168th out of 187 countries. 3/4th of the rural population (which is about half the total population) is ranked as 'poor'. These people generally produce for their own consumption. They sell a small part of their harvest at the market for very low prices. Because everyone grows the same crops, the competition is very high.


The Gambia has a sub tropical climate with an average day temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. The relative humidity level is 50-60%. However, during rain season the temperature can rise to 43 degrees and a humidity level of 95%.

In the figure below, the rain season is clearly visible.


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