Our Gambia project site is located in a small village called Kassi Kunda in the Kantora District in the Upper River Region in the eastern part of the country. The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa with an estimated population of 1,700,000 and they all rely on three government run hospitals for essential life-saving health care. This small country looks like a finger stuck into the inland of Senegal.
Gambia is a narrow country dissected into two parts by the meandering Gambia River and is completely surrounded by Senegal except at the western coastline which borders the Atlantic Ocean. It is 320 kilometers long and 20 to 30 kilometers wide. It has many attractions and it is becoming one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. The Gambia River flows for 322 km through Gambia on its way to the Atlantic, and is the principal source of water and transport medium. With its glorious low-key beaches, bustling towns that combine colonial architecture and traditional activities and wealth of wildlife.
Gambia lies between latitudes 13° and 14°N, and longitudes 13° and 17°W. The total land area is 11,295 km2 of which 1,300 km2 or 11.5% is covered by water. On 18 February 1965, Gambia was granted independence from the United Kingdom and joined The Commonwealth. An agriculturally rich country, its economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. Peanuts (groundnuts) and peanut byproducts are the chief domestic export. About a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Gambia is heavily dependent on foreign aid. English is the official language of the Gambia. About 90% of the country’s inhabitants are Muslim. Most of the urban population live in Banjul, the capital, and largest city. The climate is tropical with virtually uninterrupted sunshine and high daytime temperatures with almost no rainfall from November to June. Tthe weather is usually warm and dry. The dry season runs from November to May. And the rainy season involves a 5-month wet season, which is from June to October. Based on the rainfall patterns, the country is divided into 3 major ecological zones namely Sahelian, Sudan-Sahelian and Sudan-Guinean zones with rainfall range of about 500 mm to 1200 mm per annum. Average daily temperatures are 28° C. The drought spells of variable durations do affect the cropping patterns and usually lead to periodic food shortages.
THE UPPER RIVER REGION
Upper River Region is the second largest division in the Gambia. Basse is the largest town and the commercial center of the eastern Gambia, a transit point for goods going to eastern Senegal, Republic of Guinea and Mali. The Upper River Region is located in the east-most part of the country with a total area of 2,069 square kilometers. It is the sixth administrative region of the Gambia headed by a governor with 7 districts namely Jimara, Fulladu East, Tumana, Kantora, Wulli East, Wulli West and Sandu. The region has a total population of about 239,916 inhabitants based on the 2013 National Census results, with male and female populations at 48% and 52%, respectively. The region lies in the tropical zone and a lowland landscape a sudano-sahelian type of climate characterized by regular flooding. The poverty gap ratio was about 25.9 percent and the literacy rate was 49.5 percent.
KASSI KUNDA VILLAGE
Kassi Kunda is a small village located in the eastern part of The Gambia at Kantora District about 42 kilometers away from the main provincial town of Basse in the Upper River Region. The village is inhabited by Mandinka people, the ethnic group who make up 42 percent of Gambia’s population. The founder of the village is called Foday Burang Karresh. The village is embedded with a lot of historical relics and has some common historical background with a nearby village called Song Kunda.
According to oral historians, the name “Kassi Kunda” came as a result of the frequent attacks of the village by the outsiders far from other regions. There was a river between Kassi Kunda and Song Kunda, where warriors made a hideout and for drinking when they were thirsty. In order to get rid of these attackers, the two villages came together to make some agreements. According to some narrators, the two villages formed a unified force to completely destroy the intruders. Since then, the two villages support and help each other in terms of everything. The village derived its name from a “Mandingo” word “Kassi Talleh” meaning “no problem”. Whatever the decision the people of Song Kunda came up with, the people of Kassi Kunda always accept and welcome it. This was why the people of Kassi Kunda are regarded as the most peaceful and friendly people in the region.
The founder of the village was buried a kilometer away from the village at the eastern part of the village. It is believed that his burial ground was the first settlement of the village. The village has some other satellite villages which include: Fantunbung, Banni, Kantali Kunda and Song Kunda.
The main occupation of the villagers is farming. The male usually cultivates millet and sorghum while the women cultivate groundnut. During the dry season, all the women concentrate on gardening. Most of the villagers do subsistent agriculture, where they use their farming harvest for feeding their families and sale the surplus. There is only one main garden in use by the entire community. Water supply for garden come from four hand-dug wells where they manually drawn water to water the plants.
Children in the village receive their primary education in the nearby village called Song Kunda. For their secondary education, they proceed to Fatoto township, which is about 3.5 kilometers from Kassi Kunda. Because of the distance between Fatoto and Kassi Kunda, some children find it very difficult to travel to and from each day to attend secondary school. Some of them who have relatives in Fatoto go and live with them there as to be closer to the school. For health care, the people of Kassi Kunda go to the hospital at Fatoto or Basse.
The culture and tradition of the village are upheld and preserved. The people of the village come together to grace one another‘s occasion such as; naming ceremony, marriage and other political, social and religious ceremonies. As of now, Kassi Kunda is regarded as the best village in Kantora District that promotes and preserves culture and tradition.
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