MRC Keneba is a rural field station situated in the Kiang West region of The Gambia, 2.5 hours by road from MRC Fajara. The field-station is located in the village of Keneba; the largest village in an area of predominantly subsistence agriculture. The MRC has had a presence in the area for over 60 years and enjoys an excellent relationship with the local community. The Keneba field station primarily supports the work of the MRC ING, but also hosts research from the three other themes at MRC Unit The Gambia and has close links with MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge. The current Head of Station is Dr Rita Wegmüller.
Due to its isolation MRC Keneba maintains all its own infrastructure (laboratories and clinic, vehicles, electricity, water supply, satellite communication) necessary to support its science. The field-station has a long history of providing medical care to the local population as well as carrying out a strong nutrition-related science programme. The clinic provides an extensive, out-patient based service concentrating on maternal and child health provision and working closely with the local Gambian Government Divisional Health Team. Clinics are run 5 days per week and a supplementary feeding centre for malnourished children is maintained 7 days per week as well as an emergency out-of-hours service offering medical, midwifery and nursing care. The clinic also supports the local Karantaba Health Centre and the Maternal and Child Health trekking teams that deliver healthcare directly to the villages. Since 2009, all data has been captured using an electronic data capture system. The field-station has a strong record in training our Gambian and other West African staff (the local staff complement is now numbering 140) from basic to post-doctoral levels. Keneba hosts many overseas students and researchers especially medical elective and MSc students from LSHTM.
The villages of Keneba, Manduar and Kantong-Kunda have traditionally maintained the closest relationship with the field-station but increasingly our studies and clinical service involve many other villages across West Kiang. Regular demographic surveillance of approximately 16,000 individuals in 30 villages in West Kiang is achieved through the West Kiang Demographic Surveillance System. From early 2012, this data will be supplemented by a BioBank of biological samples and phenotypic data from the DSS population.
The field-station maintains a continuous dialogue with the local community to promote a better understanding of the research that we are carrying out. Our research is directly relevant to the health of the local population and this dialogue stresses the co-operative nature of the research and the rights of any community or individual to opt out.