Gambia — The acting director at the Department of Forestry has enlightened that The Gambia government is mindful and still remains committed to sound environmental management, while attaching a great deal of interest in the preservation and sustainable utilization of our forest resources.
In his statement as part of activities marking Anti-Bush Fire Day, Sambou Nget, noted that the environmental threats, of which bushfires are amongst the most significant, are of great concern to the nation.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘Empty forest, empty stomach, help prevent bush-fires’.
It’s a day that provides opportunities to reflect on the causes and impacts of bushfires on our socio-economic development and also creates awareness as well as advocate for pro-active participation of the population in the prevention and management of bushfires.
“It is important to note that the livelihoods of most of our population depend to a great extent on the forest and its rich resource base in terms of food, medicine, energy, income and employment. As a result, we all have equal responsibilities to conserve, protect and rationally utilize this precious and priceless heritage against the menace of fires,” he advised.
The Gambia as a country, he said, suffers greatly from the effects of bushfires that virtually burns the whole vegetation cover on an annual basis resulting to the reduction of fodder and browse materials for animals, loss of livestock, other important fauna and flora including their habitats as well as agricultural produce and in extreme cases, the destruction of settlements.
Director Nget explained that the frequency and intensity of bushfires could be reduced by including fire management in broader landscape management strategies and through more integrating approaches, which includes not only fire suppression but also fire prevention, early warning and preparedness.
The Department of Forestry, he went on, has put in place policies and strategies for better control and management of bushfires. He added that these policies and strategies include improving dialogue and communication with the general public to allow it contributes its quota in the effective management of the forest resource base of the country.
The Gambia Forest Communication Concept, he stated, has been designed along these lines to bring the forestry services closer to the people through the sharing of relevant and timely information.
“While we commemorate this day, Fellow Gambians, it is implored upon everyone to reflect on the loss we are incurring as a nation due to bushfires. The environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and livelihood resulting from annual bushfires is indeed worrying.
Incalculable volumes of timber, firewood as well as and non-timber forest products perish due to annual bush fires, creating further difficulties in our efforts to meet national requirements for domestic fuel wood energy and construction materials. Soil degradation assumes serious proportions in many parts of the country, resulting in significant reduction on farm productivity,” Director Nget hinted.
He indicated that large-scale forest fires, which destroy their habitats and distribution, while wildlife biodiversity continues to decline steadily and impacts negatively on the promotion of tourism products and its potentials for diversification also seriously affect the nation’s fauna.
The Department of Forestry is challenging all of us to join efforts in preventing the occurrence of bushfires and participate fully in the control exercises whenever and wherever they occur.
He warned that government will leave no culprit go free for illegally setting a forest on fire. All local authorities should take responsibility of fighting bushfires in their areas of jurisdiction, as a national and individual response.