By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang

The Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Hon. Lamin Dibba has reiterated that it is the responsibility of communities to protect and preserve their surrounding forest covers against negative vibes including excessive charcoal burning that destroys the most important component of our livelihood food chain, thus threatening our survival. On an equal footing, he cautioned local authorities to make sure offenders and destroyers of their natural forest resources through logging, bushfires, etc. must face justice without fear, favour or ill faith.

The sustainable utilization and management of our today’s forests and vegetation covers calls for an integrated approach and commitment where all stakeholders shoulder their respective responsibilities towards the realization of outset objectives towards sustainable forest management, Minister Dibba pointed out.

The Natural Resource Minister make these emotional and touching remarks recently during the official 2017 official handing over of thirty nine (39) Forest Management Agreements to their local managing communities. These presentations which were graced by regional local authorities, district chiefs, forest staffs, forests committees were among a long list of stakeholders present in presentations held in Kerewan, Janjanburay, Basse, Mansakonko and Brikama.

Forest Management Agreement is a document that will officially allow and empower local communities to manage and control their community forests or forest parks by themselves, so that they can have ownership over these natural resources, that cries intrusion from the local communities themselves. Furthermore, this certification will not only empower the local owners to have full control over the sustainable utilization of their forest resources, but will also contribute immensely towards the reduction of greenhouse gas thus  contributing to climate change mitigation, the impact of which is greatly showered on them.

“We cannot afford to spend millions of Dalasis, labour, energy and seedlings on tree plantings during the rainy reason only to allow them to perish in the dry season by our ourselves through bushfires and other anthropogenic actions towards ones selfish gains. This will affect us immeasurably as human beings and equally affect our domestic and wild animals, not to mention other families in the ecosystem.” Hon. Dibba buttressed.

Representing Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, the FAO Resident Representative, Dr. Lamin Ceesay of FAO-Gambia disclosed that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

The objectives of the FAO, he said, is to assist Government of the Gambia to maximise crop and domestic food production,  integrate agriculture and livestock sectors and other benefits to farmers thereby increasing food self-sufficiency, improving nutrition and quality of the rural population.

Giving Forestry Department a tap on the shoulder, Dr. Ceesay revealed that his organization aims to diversify the agricultural production base, upgrade horticultural production systems and promote the management of natural resources for sustainable development. He congratulated the recipients of Forest Management Agreements for their good job reaching them to this stage and urged them to be jealous of their limited forest resources so that generations not yet born can also rip their natural share.

Muhammed Jaiteh, Director of Forestry Department disclosed that this is a fulfilment of his department`s obligation in collaboration with key stakeholders and partners to support and coordinate the implementation of the Community Forest Process in the country. This implementation process, he pointed out, consist of preparatory, preliminary and consolidation phases and the conclusion of which calls for the legal transfer of forest land ownership from state to community ownership and management.

The chief forester opined that this process will greatly enhance the involvement and participation of communities in the management of their remaining forest resources, and with the utilization of their own by-laws as a mechanism devised to control over harvesting and exploitation, soon they will start releasing maximum gains from their carbon stores.

The Executive Director of the National Environment Agency, Momodou Jaama Suwareh alluded that environmental protection is everyone’s business as a cross cutting issue and therefore called for positive attitudinal change in that direction. Trees and forest covers, he said, serve as carbon sink as its contribution towards climate change mitigation is immeasurable.

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