Group photo taken at the opening ceremony, photo credit: ©FAO/Amadou Bah

By Fatoumatta K Jallow 

The Forestry Strategy 2019 – 2028 and the National Forest Action Plan 2019 – 2028 documents, are being validated by stakeholders at a forum in Kololi. The two-day national forum is jointly organized by The Ministry of The Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through Community-Based Sustainable Dry Land Forest Management project. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project is being implemented in NBR, CRR North, URR North and LRR, by the Department of Forestry, FAO, NACO Gambia, and ADWAC.

The main goal of the project is to reduce forest degradation and loss, through participatory sustainable forest management approaches, to enhance an enabling environment for stakeholders to carry out effective forest resource management.

The Minister of the Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Lamin Dibba, said the Gambia like many Sahel countries in the sub-region, is confronted with familiar sets of problems associated with low agriculture productivity, biodiversity loss, land degradation and uncoordinated youth migration in search for better livelihoods.

“Deforestation and land degradation continue to be major environmental problems that threaten agricultural productivity, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of our rural population particularly in the northern part of the country. Therefore, there is urgent need to combat deforestation which requires good strategies, with rational planning,’’ the Lands and Forestry Minister said; that the successful implementation of these documents, require the collective effort of all stakeholders and calls on all and sundry, to protect the forests, to avoid serious environmental and economic consequences such as the reduction of future economic, social and environmental benefits, associated with or derived from the sustainable management of ‘‘our’’ forests and other natural resources.

Minister Dibba concluded that the validation affords the unique opportunity for all stakeholders to scrutinize the documents, in order to ensure suitability and relevance in guiding the management of the country’s natural resources.

On her part, the FAO Country Representative Dr. Perpetua Kalala, said Forest is among the world’s most productive land-based ecosystems; that they cover the earth’s land area, or nearly 4 billion hectares, and are essential to human wellbeing, sustainable development and a healthy planet; that an estimated 1.6 billion people or 25 percent of the global population, depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income.

Dr. Kalala said forests prevent land degradation and desertification, and contribute substantially to climate change mitigation and adaptation; that despite the crucial contribution of forests to life on earth and human well-being, deforestation and forest degradation continues in many African countries including The Gambia, often in response to demands for fuel wood, food and fiber. Dr. Kalala continued that the 2019-2028 National Forest Strategy and National Forest Action Plan, are part of a strategy to strengthen national capacities, for the implementation of the current and future forest and other natural resource policies for the Gambia; that this will increase and strengthen good governance, engagements with partners and national policy makers and relevant donors, on sustainable forest management. She urged participants to critically review both draft documents to make sure, that all concerns of the forest and allied sectors, are adequately addressed. She call upon private sector and other corporate bodies, to priorities natural resource management and give continues support to the implementation of the strategy and action plan.

The Director of Forestry Muhammed Jaiteh, stated that degradation of forests can have severe negative impacts and far reaching consequences such as erosion, loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, diminished livelihood opportunities and reduced yields of forest products and services.

Jaiteh said his Department shall engage in partnership with relevant stakeholders, and be at the forefront of the management of the nation’s forest affairs; that the Department is poised to make significant contribution to strengthen local capacities, and overcome obstacles to sustainable forest management, by providing reliable information, policy, advice and technical assistance.

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