Senegal Geography and History

Senegal Geography and History

HUMAN GEOGRAPHY

According to threergroup, the population of Senegal is made up of Sudanese, who have had contact with “white” people, especially through the Fulbe (or Fulani), and who are now almost entirely Islamized. The most representative ethnic group is that of the Wolof (42.7%), active farmers in the areas bathed by the Sine and Saloum, scattered mainly in the regions of Thiès and Diourbel, but also numerous on the coast. Akin to Wolofs are serers (14.9%), also mainly farmers. Fulani are widespread almost everywhere (14.4%), traditionally nomadic breeders present in all the countries located on the southern edge of the Sahara, but today also farmers and traders. Linguistically and culturally similar to fulbe are the tekrur (or toucouleur, 9.3%), mainly located along the Senegal river. In Casamance the diolas prevail (5.3%), who live in small groups at the edge of the river. There are also minorities of Mandingo (3.6%), Bambara (1.3%) and other groups (8.5%). Slavery, disease, tribal wars slowed down the demographic development of Senegal for a long time, which at the beginning of the century counted less than 1 million residents; since then the increase was very rapid, so much so that from 1930 to 1990 the Senegalese population increased by over four million and grew, between 1985 and 1990, at an annual rate of 2.6%, a value even excessive compared to the possibility of economic development of the country. Most of the population, whose average density is 59 residents / km², is concentrated in the western Atlantic area, W of the Saint-Louis-Kolda axis, especially around Dakar, and generally in the Cape Verde peninsula.. The attraction exercised by the capital on the populations of the innermost areas is very strong and its growth is very high, at least compared to its absorption capacity. In 2004, half of the population lived in urban centers. A well-populated area inland lies along the railway line to Mali, which is also the northern limit of the Kaolack, the most populous inland region of the country, known as the “peanut basin”; it follows the Lower Casamance, a coastal river region on the border with Guinea-Bissau. The least densely populated areas are inland, represented by the typically Sahelian region of northeastern Senegal, the Ferlo valley and Upper Casamance. In these regions the density often remains below 10 residents / km and human settlement is rarefied and dispersed in numerous temporary locations. Traditional villages have circular huts: however, the social organization differs from group to group. Important centers, besides Dakar, are Saint-Louis, Thiès and Ziguinchor.

ENVIRONMENT

The limited amount of precipitation and its distribution in the few summer months strongly affect the vegetation cover, especially in the N. From the semi-desert areas and the steppes of the Sahel we pass towards the S to a savannah rich in baobabs, acacias including Acacia senegalensis (which supplies gum arabic) and palm trees. In Casamance there is a forest environment that is a prelude to that typical of Guinean Africa with formations of mahogany, teak, bamboo, oil palm, and mangrove swampsalong the rivers. This territory is very important for the migrations of birds, especially aquatic birds, which fly from Europe to warmer climates during the winter months, in fact here is the third largest bird refuge in the world, the Djoudj National Bird Park. In addition, there are many hippos, crocodiles, chimpanzees, baboons, hyenas and buffaloes. Large mammals, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs and antelopes, which once lived in large numbers on these lands, are now present in limited numbers, confined to national parks or to the less populated areas of the country. Deforestation is the main cause of the process of desertification and soil erosion, environmental problems that Senegal has to face. The protected areas of the country are 24, UNESCO: the aforementioned Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (1981) and the Niokolo-Koba National Park (1981), inscribed on the endangered heritage list.

PREHISTORY

The lower Paleolithic is well represented in the Acheulean site of Sansande, in the lower Falémé valley, consisting of three levels respectively dated to 345 / 300,000, 130,000 and 58 / 32,000 years. The main context reflects a superior Acheulean of Levallois technique, rich in double – sided and hachereaux. The site of Bafoulabe, in the Gambia valley, dates back to the Middle Paleolithic, with the Levallois technique and chronological attribution of around 30,000 years. The Upper Paleolithic is in particular represented by several deposits that fall within the Tiemassassian facies, which takes its name from the site of Tiemassas, in western Senegal, with industry of Levallois technique and musteriana, characterized by large double-sided armor, sometimes with a peduncle. The sites of Sebikhotane, near the village of Deni-Youssouf, and of the Cape Verde peninsula are attributed to this same facies. In turn, the tools and furnishings found in the Cape Verde peninsula (and also preserved in the Museum of the island of Gorée) indicate the development of a Neolithic industry that saw the residents of the country transform from hunters and gatherers into farmers and shepherds.

Senegal Geography and History