May 21, 2015, 10:37 AM
We note that the report on the preliminary census findings is now available on the website of the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), www.gbos.gov.gm
As stated in our editorial last week, when GBoS released its first report on the results of the 2013 population and housing census, interest in the national census data is very high, and people cannot wait to access the vital information.
This was why we were surprised that a crucial piece of information, such as the present size of the various ethnic groups we have in the country, is missing from the preliminary report.
Why is there a delay in releasing the ethnic figures? Whatever happened to this very important data? Why is their announcement delayed?
Indeed, the national census authorities must have a very good reason!
Of course, we are aware of the sensitivity of such data; but the whole purpose of the census exercise was to make available information like that, which is useful to the public in many ways.
Also, the figures for the population size of various local government areas are very important, especially in view of the need to address the controversial issue of re-visiting constituency boundaries; and knowing that the districts are now also serving as “constituencies” for election to political office.
Meanwhile, according to the national census authorities, the finding that the population has been growing at the rate of 3.3 per cent per annum, between 2003 and 2013, means it is expected to double in 21 years.
They said the steady increase in population size for decades has policy implications for all sectors, particularly the education, health, housing and agriculture sectors.
“With the consistent increase in the population, there is increasing demand for services and land both for residential and agricultural use.
“With an increasingly adverse economic climate at the global level, and increasing environmental problems, an increasing population at this rate will continue to pose development challenges”, they pointed out in their report.
They also noted that, comparing the current rate of population growth to the observed annual growth rate of 2.7 per cent over the period 1993 to 2003, the population growth rate “has significantly increased” over the past decade.
“One would have expected that with interventions geared towards a reduction in fertility, assuming a zero net-migration the population growth rate would have declined.
“This unexpected trend in the population growth rate can be attributed to improvements in the coverage of the 2013 census over 2003, and declining mortality rates.
“As expected, the movement of the population out of Banjul (emigration) has outweighed the contribution of births and in-migration to the population of Banjul leading to a decline in population over the period.
“In contrast, the population in Brikama LGA grew at a rate of 6.1 per cent annually on average. The unprecedented rate of population growth registered for the LGA is attributable to the influx of migrants from other regions of the country and from outside the country”.
We further learned from the national census authorities, citing Wikipedia, that “the 2012 population estimates ranked The Gambia as the 73rd most densely populated country in the world and the 10th in Africa”.
We were further informed that, with the drop in population in the capital city Banjul, the population density also dropped from 2867 persons per square kilometre to 2,559 persons per square kilometre. “However, this is still regarded as very high”.
“Since population density is a direct outcome of internal population redistribution, as dictated by various ‘push and pull’ factors, in the absence of changes in these factors in the foreseeable future the density is expected to continue to increase. This has policy implications for authorities both at the central and local government levels.
They cite the fact that, over the years, agricultural land has been dwindling with increasing pressure on land due to an increasing population.
“On the other hand, land for housing is becoming increasingly scarce in urban areas, which led to an unprecedented appreciation in the value of urban land, and the settlement of people in areas unfit for human settlement”, because of the swampy terrain.
Preliminary results of the 2013 Population and Housing Census show that 1,882,450 persons were enumerated in The Gambia (figure 1). This provisional count shows a 5.6 per cent increase over the projected 2013 population of 1,783,424.
This variance can be attributed to a number of factors one of which is a possible improvement in the census coverage of 2013 compared to 2003.
The significant drop in the population growth rate from 4.2 per cent during the inter-censal period 1983-1993 to 2.7 per cent over the period 1993-2003 is a possible indication of an under-count of the population in 2003.
Facts arestubborn, but statistics are morepliable.