The 1.3 million Mandinka of West Africa live in three contiguous countries: The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.

It is a densely populated savannah area, just south of the Sahara Desert, in an area known as the Sahel. The MNK are subsistence farmers, planting peanuts, millet, corn and rice in the rainy season, and fishing along the Cassamance and Gambia rivers.

Generally their villages are found intermixed with Wolof and Fula villages on the north bank of the River Gambia, and among the Jola and Fula in southern Senegal, down into Guinea-Bissau. The Mandinka predominant in The Gambia; Mandinka is the trade language of southern Senegal.

The climate and geography changes from arid Sudan-savannah bush land in The Gambia, to a more humid and forested area in Senegal and Guinea Bissau. The farming (rainy) season occurs from July through October, followed by an eight month dry season. Afternoon dry season temperatures reach 115°F. Environmental concerns include deforestation, over-grassing, bush fires, soil erosion and reduced rainfall.

Women do the bulk of the rice field work during the rainy season. Peanuts, the major cash crop, are farmed by men. For local bartering, men also plant watermelon and pumpkins.

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