The benefits that can be derived from our forests are numerous, be it in the form of timber and foodstuffs.
In The Gambia, a new Forest Policy has been developed, and the Department of Forestry through the Technical Co-operation Programme Project (TCP) recently launched a popularisation campaign for the new Forest Policy.
With proper forest management, we can pursue our timber harvesting goals, while ensuring the continuous health and productivity of the land.
This is why the policy is very timely and relevant, as it comes at a time when there is a dire need to review the situation in totality, and to evolve a holistic Forest Policy framework, to cater for the needs of all stakeholders without compromising the interest of future generations.
We hope that this new policy would serve this purpose, since we were made to understand that it was developed through a participatory process.
Cognizant of the benefits our forests can bring to the nation, we are very much concerned about the preservation of our forest, especially the way we utilise its resources. We must make sure that trees are harvested in a way that protects the environment, and where possible replace them with other trees.
The objective of the initiative is to present the new national Forest Policy framework and provide relevant information to various stakeholders on the overview and implementation of the new policy. It is also set to inform how the new policy would be applied to effect changes in the forestry sector, as well as the stakeholders and the role each would play in its implementation.
We also understand that the new policy framework is also aimed at providing the Forestry Department with core policy guidelines, and a set of minimum standards for organisational effectiveness in programme management.
Our local communities need to have an overview of the forestry management, while at the same time understand the implications of the new national forest plan of action.
To address the problems in managing our forests, more community ownership and involvement must be encouraged. We must also discourage the issue of bush fires, so as to maximise the benefits of the forest cover.
Indiscriminate cutting of trees must also be discouraged at all cost.
We hope that the policy will continue to focus on maximising the benefits of the forestry sector to the Gambian society, with special emphasis on the contribution of the sector to poverty alleviation, and building the capacity of stakeholders at all levels for enhanced participation.
This position had been strengthened by the enactment of the Local Government Act of 2002, which calls on the municipalities and the local authorities to gradually assume their responsibilities of forest management at the community levels.