Area Handbook for Ivory Coast

By T. D. Roberts; Donald M. Bouton et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
GEOGRAPHY AND POPULATION

The Republic of the Ivory Coast lies almost wholly between and 10° north of the equator and is bisected by the fifth meridian west of Greenwich. Westernmost of the African countries that border the Gulf of Guinea, its outline is a rough square, oriented in the cardinal directions, with sides about 350 miles long and an area of approximately 124,000 square miles. The country is bounded for the entire length of its eastern border by Ghana. The northern boundary is shared for approximately equal distances by Upper Volta on the east and Mali on the west. Again for approximately equal distances, the western border, from north to south, abuts Guinea and Liberia. The shore of the Gulf of Guinea forms the southern boundary.

From the sea, the ground slopes gently and with very little bold relief to elevations of about 1,400 feet along the northern border. The only mountain masses of any consequence are along the western border and in the northwest where some of the higher peaks exceed 3,000 feet in elevation. The four parallel drainage basins formed by the four main rivers of the country run generally north to south, but except for the westernmost, the divides between them are not sharply defined.

Dense forest characterizes the southern third of the country, but farther inland the woodlands become more and more sparse and grassy, with the heaviest growth bordering the water courses or dispersed in isolated pockets. Toward the north, there is no forest in a strict sense. Scattered trees and shrubs dot the grasslands, their size and frequency diminishing progressively from south to north.

The climate is warm, humid and marked by distinct seasonal variations in rainfall. The annual and daily ranges of temperature and humidity are very small in the coastal areas, but both increase progressively from south to north. However, even in the extreme north, the ranges are much less than in the United States. Annual rainfall is rather heavy along the coast but diminishes progressively toward the north, except in the hilly and mountainous regions of the far west and northwest.

The population is a mosaic of diverse peoples. Practically all are true Negroes, but they comprise many groups that are differentiated by their traditions, customs, manners, beliefs, and speech. Over 60 dialects are spoken in the Ivory Coast, and the only common language is French (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages). Except for groups of

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