By Madiba Singhateh
Information reaching Foroyaa indicate that the West Coast Regional Forestry Officer Ousainou Cham, has been redeployed to the North Bank Region.
The redeployment or immediate transfer of Mr. Cham has raised eyebrows among Forestry officials and environmentalists who say that the experienced Forest Officer, while occupying that position made revelations regarding attempts to de-reserve a strip of the Salagi Forest Reserve and exportation of 40 containers of Rosewood timber, an endangered species which the government had banned from exportation.
Mr. Cham who has served as Regional Forestry Officer for the West Coast Region for the past nine years, said he was given his transfer letter recently. This, he said, was a big surprise to him as a very senior officer of the Department of Forestry.
He believes the transfer is linked to his involvement in blowing the whistle against the de-reservation of the Salagi Forest by Government and the illegal timber trade particularly the endangered species of the country’s fauna.
A concern of Forestry officials and environmentalists is that once the trade in endangered species of the country’s fauna is stopped, there should not be anything like the export of semi processed Rosewood (Kenoo) or the issuance of permit for their export by the Ministry.
Mr. Cham, who was the West Coast Regional Forestry Officer at the time of the Salagi Forest de-reservation issue, was in the middle of things during this period and had numerous meetings with the ‘All Forest Platform’ and the community of Sukuta together with environmental activists who wanted clarity about the de-reservation of the Salagi forest park.
Mr. Cham who has vast experience in forest related issues has been working with people in helping them understand and regenerate their forest parks, which number 77 in the country. He and his team is at the centre stage of exposing and intercepting forest products that are illegally felled or to be exported.
Speaking to Foroyaa, the President of ‘All Forest Platform Seekou Janko’, said they are displeased with the redeployment of Mr. Cham, adding that their platform is engaged in great work of reforestation in the region.
Janko indicated that Cham played an important role in the ‘Salagi forest issue and raising alarm on the exportation of timber logs,
President Janko said that they cannot really comprehend the reason behind his redeployment to the North Bank region. Janko said the West Coast Region has some forest parks controlled by both Government and the communities. He said most logs that come from outside the Southern borders of the Gambia pass through West Coast Region and this Region has been recognized as one of the entry points for forest products such as timber or logs.
Janko said it is region where people traded in logs openly on the numerous borders. He however said that with Mr. Cham’s arrival, this has been minimized to the level it has come today.
Information received by this medium indicates that communications involving Mr Cham relating to the de-reservation of the Salagi Forest Reserve and the purchase of vehicles for Governors from the National Forestry Fund (NFF) are issues that did not go down well with the Ministry.
Foroyaa got in touch with Mr Muhammed Jaiteh the Director of Forestry to get the view of the Directorate on the matter. He simply said the administrative board decided to redeploy Mr Ousainou Cham and made no further comment. Attempts to reach the Ministry of the Environment, was unsuccessful but a further attempt will be made.