By Awa B. Bah
The African Women Network for Community Forest Management (REFACOF) over the weekend held a two-day sensitization workshop for women in Forest Management in the Lower River and West Coast Regions respectively. The forum was meant to expose women to the protection and management of environmental and natural resources. The African Women Network for Community Management of Forest (REFACOF) is a regional network connecting countries to potentially manage forests and natural resources.
The Coordinator of the National Coordinating Organization for Framer Associations of the Gambia (NACOFAG), Alieu Sowe, in his address said the forum is timely and important as issues relating to forest and community forest management will be brought to the attention of participants. Sowe urged participants to make the best use of the forum as it will help in preparing them in setting up their communal forests and address common concerns faced by women when it comes to forest and natural resources.
REFACOF President Rohey Ceesay commended the women for their response and thanked the various representatives for their commitment towards responding to their call. She noted the formidable roles played by the leadership of the National Farmers Platform. Madam Ceesay called on the women to be active when it comes to preserving the forest and natural resources; that women need to get fully engaged in the promotion and management of our natural resources because they have the support from both sides of the gender divide. She revealed that her network is ready to fight for the welfare of women in the management of our natural resources. She called on more women to participate in forest activities as they can help in influencing positive decisions for the development of our fauna and flora.
The representative from the department of forestry Mr. Sanyang, commended the women for their commitment to manage the forest. He said women have played big roles in the advancement of our forest and farm facilities as they are key in this sector. The forest, he said, is very important and that women have been committed in the sector. He assured them of his department’s full support in their farm and forest activities and urged them to make best use of the resource persons.
Mustapha Camara posited that the training was timely and could not have come at a better time. Training women in this sector, he said, is in the right direction since most forests are commonly managed by men who will in turn destroy it. The forest, he said, is key in our daily activities and preserving it for our future generation should be a priority. He urged the women participants to take the training seriously.
The National Farmers Platform of the Gambia’s (NFPG) President Alhagie Basse Mboge, Bakoto Jobe Mboge and the Chief of Lower River Region Demba Sanyang, challenged the women to take the forest and farm activities seriously as they are key in the family. They called for unity amongst women in forest development and management. Unity, he said, is the only tool available for them to notice progress in their forest dreams as government and all stakeholders have given them the support they need. The training, he said, will go a long way in advancing the welfare of women in forest management and protection.
In a similar but different engagement, a similar forum was also held over the weekend in Somita in the West Coast Region.