The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, with an extent of about
330 km east to west, and less than 50 km north to south. It is a former British colony,
forming an enclave within Senegal, a former French colony. The Gambia is one of
the most densely populated countries in West Africa. The highest concentration of
people is around the increasingly urbanized landscape spreading outward from
The Gambia’s capital, Banjul. The city is built on a small peninsula tucked between
mangrove-lined estuaries and the broad mouth of the Gambia River, which rises out
of the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea. With its natural port, Banjul is an important
trading post between West Africa and the world. The main ethnic groups are the
Mandinka, the Wolof and the Fula.
The Gambia’s economy is dominated by agriculture. About two-thirds of the population
is engaged in raising livestock or growing crops, such as rice, maize, millet, sorghum,
and cassava. Small-scale manufacturing includes processing peanuts, fish, and hides.
The country lies within the Sudanian climatic region, with a distinct short rainy
season and a long dry season. The Gambia has also found a niche in tourism, taking
advantage of its beautiful beaches, warm water, and nature retreats. It is well known
for bird watching, with over 540 species of birds recorded (Barlow and Wacher, 1997).