Due to the observed increasing vulnerabilities and poverty of the people of the district, Niamina East was identified as the site of the new development area (DA) and was opened in 2005.
Niamina East district is one of the 48 districts in the Gambia. It is located on the south bank of the River Gambia in Central River Division. About 258kms from Banjul, it takes about six hours to drive along the bituminized roads from the Kombo to the first village of the district, Jarreng.
The geography of the area is made up of a sparse vegetation of shrubs and trees and topography of sometimes hilly or rocky areas.
According to the 2003 national population census, the district has a population of about 19034 inhabitants increasing by 2.14 % annually.
There are in 1087 households of mainly large extended families in the 47 villages of the district. Niamina East is divided into Kudang and Jarreng Wards.
There are three major ethnic groups in the district namely Wolof, Fula and Mandinka. Wollof is the predominant ethnic group in the district, constituting 37.5% of the population, Fulas constitute 36%, Mandinka 20% and minorities account for the rest.
This is according to a sample study conducted during the appraisal of the DA. The population is predominantly female and a considerable part of the population is youthful.
A majority of the people, especially women and girls are illiterate. However, the society remains highly patriarchal with men being most household heads. Many are polygamous families.
Whilst Wolof dominant villages cultivate groundnuts and early millet, the others are into rice and groundnut cultivation. Most Fula also own livestock.
Like in most parts of the country, agriculture is hampered by a lot of problems ranging from the adverse vagaries of nature, inadequate farming implements and improved techniques and poor management/marketing.
The groundnut sub-sector is the most problematic. However, the past two years has witnessed some positive changes in terms of marketing of groundnuts, the main cash crop. For example this year, although there has been cases of credit buying during the trade season, but by the end of the trade season all farmers were paid.
According to the appraisal report, 53% of the sampled communities and households are very poor, 32% as poor and 15% as non-poor. The very poor were characterized as having low food production capacity due; to lack of production resources, irregular and inadequate meals, dependent solely on subsistence farming and live in temporary or dilapidated buildings.
Ironically, whist it can be observed that women do a lot of work, both domestic and farm work, they are by far the poorer of the sexes. This may be due to the traditional values and practices of communities and families.
There are eight early childhood development centres, seven lower basic schools, two upper basic schools and one senior secondary school in the district.
According to the report, only 49% of children at school going age are attending school. Although recently the number of girls attending school in the lower grades is more than that of the boys, the situation is almost the opposite as they advance higher in the education ladder.
The health facilities in the district are one minor health centre and 5 outreach activity centres. The staffs at the health centre carries out weekly outreach activities at these centres. There is a frequent shortage of essential drugs at the health centre most of the times.
The major health problems in the district are malaria and diarrhoea, pneumonia malnutrition . Due to mostly the presence of mosquitoes, more than half of the year and the absence of clean water points in most communities. HIV/AIDS prevalence data is not known, it is evident that it is also a cause for concern given the polygamous nature of most marriages and other cultural practices in Niamina East.
For many, the conditions of women are not a course for concern. It is evident that whilst women work harder, they remain the poorer. Society is still highly patriarchal. Early and forced marriages remain issues.
Decision making and power relations are still tilted in favour of men and boys and their development in society. It will take a lot of sensitisation and education for the statusquo to change to desirable condition.