Gambia — The government of The Gambia remains committed to sound environmental management and has attached a great deal of interest to the preservation and utilisation of our forestry resources, the director of the Department of Forestry, Sambou Nget reaffirmed Wednesday.
Speaking during a day’s forum on bushfire management in The Gambia, organised by the Regional Project on Sustainable Management of Endemic Ruminant Livestock in West Africa (PROGEBE-Gambia) at a local hotel in Kololi, Nget said The Gambia as a country suffers greatly from bushfires that virtually burn the whole vegetation cover on an annual basis. This, he lamented, results to the reduction of grazing and fodder material for animals, loss of livestock and other important fauna and flora including their habitats as well as agricultural produce, the destruction of settlements and loss of human lives.
He disclosed that the National Forest Assessment has revealed that 79% of the country’s forests experience bushfires once or more every year.
“This figure indicates that fires still continue to be a serious problem for forests in The Gambia and more efforts are needed to reduce fire incidences,” he said.
Given the foregoing, he noted that the workshop provides the opportunity for reflection on the causes and impacts of bushfires on the country’s socio-economic development and the policies put in place by government to tackle them.
The Forestry director remarked that in Sub-Saharan Africa, the livelihoods of most of its population depend to a great extent on the forest and its rich resource base in terms of food, medicine, energy, refuge for fauna, income and employment.
He further lamented that the growing threat of global warming and desertification is increasing, with large areas once covered with pristine forest and teeming wildlife now degraded to its threshold. “Most of the forest lands have now become wasteland impossible or costly to recover,” he added.
The national coordinator PROGEBE-Gambia, Dr. Famara Sagnia, said the objective of the project is to reinforce commitment of all stakeholders in the fight against bushfire and the protection and conservation of habitats.
He informed that the project has also embarked on raising awareness on bushfires through community radio programmes, community consultative workshops and village meetings. This, he said have been backed by the establishment of forest and fire management committees in all PROGEBE- project sites in the country.
He continued: “As a result of the project interventions, bushfire incidences have drastically declined through the 5-year period of the project implementation. This is indicative of communities’ swift response in preventing fires or putting out fires before they spread.” Sagnia said the expected outputs of the workshop are to produce national action plans on sustainable bushfire prevention and management and to also renew the commitment of national stakeholders in the prevention and management of bushfire.
The regional coordinator of PROGEBE, Dr. Abdul Kaderr Bensada, said the workshop was meant to share experience, knowledge and lessons learnt on bushfire control, noting that such types of forums would also be conducted in Mali, Guinea and Senegal respectively.
Dr. Bensada thanked the stakeholders for their participation towards the activities of PROGEBE -Gambia.
The principal assistant secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Isatou Yarbo, opined that the recommendations of the forum will have a great impact on bushfire management in The Gambia.