Gambia — Frequent fire outbreaks in agricultural communities have led to soil degradation, which meant low crop yields, and more crippling poverty for farmers who have had to deal with this scourge every year without a reprieve, a sensitization campaign against wildfires in the Fonis heard as officials of the forestry department, the Brikama Area Council and the West Coast governors office met local communities.
The department of forestry in partnership with the West Coast governors office, the Brikama Area Council and the Saint Joseph Family Farm in Bwiam recently embarked on a mission of anti-bushfire sensitization in Foni, covering the villages of Foni Jarrol and Arankon.
Such sensitizations are held annually with this latest one putting emphasis on the prevention of bushfires as a means of sustainable livelihood. The initiative is part of the departments annual anti-bush fire campaign organized in line with government’s efforts in protecting the forest and the environment at large.
The aim is to create awareness among the communities in the region on the dangers of bushfires and the need to put in place measures to prevent and control them.
Director of forestry, Abdoulie Sanneh said wildfires totally disrupt agricultural efforts, deter food production and continue to deepen poverty, low production and soil degradation. Mr. Sanneh said since fires have wrecked havoc on farming communities in Foni every year, what was necessary was to initiate pre-emptive measures which would help minimize the occurrence and eventually consign it into history. However, unless this is done, poverty will continue to rise as people means of livelihood suffer the consequences of bushfires he warned.
Touray hailed the partnership between the forestry department, the BAC and the governor’s office in the fight against wildfires and implored Foni communities and their district authorities to work out workable strategies on how to end the menacing cycle of wildfires and their attendant consequences for villages and their dwellers who had faced torrid times as the flames devoured their fields and denied them livelihoods.
According to him, the aim of this programme was to build cordial relationship with Foni communities thereby encouraging them to take proactive roles in the campaign to end the wildfire menace.
He added: The forest act empowers district authorities to mete out a fine of D10, 000 as penalties to destroyers of the forest and its bye products. It has been made quite clear that those wanting to sell firewood have to be licensed by the forestry department. he then thank the communities of Kampasa and Arankon for answering to their calls. Other speakers include Babucarr Badjie, a senior revenue collector and Ousainou Cham the regional forestry officer in west coast region in Brikama.
Speaking at the occasion, the chief of Foni Jarrol, Alhagie Kutubo Sanyang, applauded the department and its staff for their contribution to protecting the forest covers. While commending the BAC and the governors office for supporting such an important forum, whose importance he said cannot be overemphasized. He called on the communities to take the deliberations seriously and disseminate whatever knowledge that was acquired during the campaign. He said the government of President Jammeh is unreservedly committed to protecting our forest and the environment in order to sustain the countrys natural resources and manage them efficiently. He described the convergence of stakeholders as a meeting of minds aimed at working exclusively with local communities, in order to critically deal with the issues revolving around the protection of forests from incidences of wildfires.
Bakary Dembo Badjie, the chairman of the taskforce who also represented the village of Foni Bondali as chief believes such sensitizations were an integral part of dealing with the scourge of bushfires as one of the most serious environmental problems of the country. He said the role of village heads, women and children in protecting the forest covers is vital in providing a safe haven for livestock and urged community leaders to join the bandwagon and protect the forest.
Samba Jarju, a representative of the fire and ambulance service descried the sensitization as necessary, noting that his department would always be available to respond to any fire outbreak in the Foni region. He assured them that they will maintain their support for measures meant to eradicate bushfires.