December 10, every year, is set aside by the government as a day to reflect on the havoc of bushfires and map out ways to control it.The day is commemorated in the form of symposium, march-past, seminar and press briefing.
In a statement from the Ministry of Environment, Minister Pa Ousman Jarjue said the National Anti-Bushfire Day provides opportunities for reflection on the causes and impacts of bushfires on the socio-economic development.
It also serves as a platform to create and advocate for pro-active participation of the population in the prevention and management of bushfires.
The statement, signed by Lamin F. Jawara of the Ministry of Environment, said the theme for this year’s commemoration is ‘Prevention Bushfires to Ensure Food Security and Nutrition’.
Minister Jarjue said The Gambia government remains committed to sound environmental management and has attached great deal of interest to the preservation and sustainable utilisation of the country’s forest resources.
“Therefore, environmental threats of which bushfires are among the most serious are still of great concern to the nation,” he said.
He explained that the livelihoods of most of the population depend to a great extent on the forest and its rich resources in terms of food, medicine, energy, income and employment.
“As a result we all have equal responsibilities to conserve, protect and rationally utilise this precious and priceless heritage against the menace of fire,” the minister said.
Hon Jarjue further pointed out that The Gambia suffers greatly from the effects of bushfires that virtually burn the whole vegetation cover on an annual basis.
This leads to the reduction of fodder materials for animals, loss of livestock, fauna and flora including their habitats as well as agricultural produce.
He said extreme cases of bushfires have led to the destruction of settlements.
“The frequency and intensity of bushfires could be reduced by including fire management in broader landscape management strategies,” the minister said. “Also, it can be reduced through more integrating approaches which include not only fire suppression but also fire prevention, early warning and preparedness.”
The Department of Forestry has put in place policies and strategies for better control and management of bushfires by sensitising the public on need to contribute to the management of the resources.
In this vein, The Gambia forest communication concept has been designed to bring the forestry services closer to the people through the sharing of relevant and timely information.
The Environment Minister said the loss incurred as a nation resulting from annual bushfires “is indeed worrying”.
He pointed out that the volumes of timber, firewood and non-timber forest products that perish annually due to bushfires create further difficulties in efforts to meet national requirements for domestic fuel wood, energy and construction materials.