Gambia — Stakeholders in the forestry sector on Wednesday 14th December began a two day validation workshop on the draft Report on Development of Sub-Regional Convergence Plan for Sustainable Management and Utilization of Forest Eco-system in West Africa. The validation was organized by the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment, with support from the ECOWAS commission.
The main objectives of the report was to improve the politico-institutional environment and efficiency of the management of forest ecosystem, resources, management and projects As well as to strengthen the community capacities related to forest ecosystem and resources management and control.
Delivering the opening statement, Mr. Jato Sillah, the Minister of Forestry and the Environment, said the Gambia Government placed great importance on the issues of the environment and development agenda as envisaged in Vision 2020 and other international and local initiatives such as the MDGs and PAGE.
He said the Gambia forest ecosystems and parklands are not only the resources of fuel wood supply for the households but also the fodder of the livestock and the basis of agriculture productions of the country. He noted that products such as non wood forest products (NFP) generate relevant income for the local communities and by doing so contribute to poverty alleviation.
He said the Gambia’s forests are increasingly coming under pressure as a result of land use consequence, heavy dependence on firewood, timber, and other forest products.
Minister Sillah said the frequent forest fires have resulted in habitat destruction and degradation, threatening wildlife habitats.
“Our country is losing its original forest and wetlands, putting many species under severed threat,” said the Forestry and the Environment Minster.
He added that the forest ecosystem have a vital role to play against climate change and reducing disasters and that it can provide vital economies in eco-tourism and food production and also prevent dust bowls and desertification.
The forest, he said, also provides traditional medicines and charge the aquifers of clean portable water.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Samuel Medu, Forestry Expert at the ECOWAS Commission said the aim of the convergence is to bring together the efforts of a concerted and sustainable management of forest ecosystems within the West Africa region.
This, he said, is to provide the sub-region with a unifying framework from which Member States will agree to put together their national and regional actions on sustainable management of forest ecosystems on the basis of a holistic ecosystem of the achievement of the MDGs and sustainable development in the region.
The Forestry Expert further noted that the rate of forest degradation and deforestation in the region is said to be the highest per hectare in the world. “This is definitely not acceptable,” he said.
He therefore called for urgent and concerted actions to conserve and sustain what remains as the forest and wildlife resources in the face of the ravaging climate damage that is seriously affecting our region.
He added that this is why the preparation of the convergence plan for the sustainable management and utilization of forest eco-system in West African is imperative. He also called on not only the individual countries but the entire sub-region to be fully involved since the use of trans-boundary resources has now become very common and important.
“This is an urgent need for areas of collaboration to be identified and that our national forest laws can be harmonized as much as possible for the sound management of the forest and wild life.” he concluded.
Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in the Gambia, for his part, said in West Africa the forest cover (rain forest and savannah) which represents approximately 72 million hectares undergoes t tremendous pressure in spite of efforts to adopt forestry polices, programmes and to promulgate implementation laws for the various reforestation initiatives by West African states.
The FAO Rep said the sub region faces more pressing demand from a population currently estimated at 290 million, forecasted to reach 400 million in 2020 and 500 million in 2030, which relies on the forest for its needs in timber, construction wood, fuel wood and particularly non-wood forest products.
Dr. Ahmadu said it is against this background that in January 2011, ECOWAS and FAO signed the TCP/RAF/3306-support to the preparation of the convergence plan for the sustainable management and utilization of the forests ecosystem in West Africa.
He concluded by reaffirming FAO’s commitment to support the Government of the Gambia to achieve its development objectives.