April 2017, Banjul, Gambia – The Department of Forestry and the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted a training for
10 government personnel on the use of an innovative tool to effectively and
efficiently assess and monitor the country`s land cover and land use. The
five-day training in Banjul on biophysical baseline assessment using the
Collect Earth Tool occurred on 10 to 14 April 2017 and was organized under the
auspices of the project ‘‘Action Against Desertification’’ (AAD) project funded
by the EU and ACP Secretariat. The capacity development exercise will enable
the Country Team to produce a baseline report that will highlight the status of
drylands in the country and help to identify spots which require restoration.
The baseline will also serve as a basis for evidence-based decision making and for monitoring the impact of efforts to restore degraded lands and to improve ecosystems and communities resilience in drylands. Participants of the workshop were drawn from various institutions, including the Planning Service Unit, the Department of Forestry, the Department of Land and surveys, the Gambia Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and the National Environment Agency.
The intervention is congruent with FAO`s Mandate and Country Programming Framework (2016-2017) and other national, regional and international development blueprints. In The Gambia, the underlying driver for degradation of dryland forests is the increasing population pressure and the resulting direct causes are; i) unsustainable and uncontrolled resource extraction and ii) Forest fires, caused by underlying drivers like increasing population pressure and lack of adequate socioeconomic/livelihood opportunities(National Forestry Assessment 2010).
Patrick Bahal’okwibale, FAO’s Associate Professional Officer for climate change adaptation and mitigation in drylands and lead facilitator of the workshop, explained that the lack of quantitative information on status and trends of environmental and land degradation remains a huge obstacle in catalyzing appropriate interventions and practices to combat desertification and restore degraded lands in The Gambia’s drylands. Mr. Bahal’okwibale noted that the training will strengthen ongoing efforts to effectively address the menace of degradation of dryland forests in The Gambia.
He said: “The Collect Earth tool enables the trainees to assess and monitor the land cover and land use through the visualization of very high resolution images. The least that can be said is that it enables the user to even count the number of trees in a given area. The training will thus enable the country team to produce a baseline report that will highlight the status of drylands in the country. The baseline will also serve as a basis for monitoring the impact of efforts to restore degraded lands and to improve ecosystems and communities’ resilience in drylands’’.
Malang Jatta, National Focal Point for the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGWSSI) lamented that deforestation and land degradation are major environmental issues faced by The Gambia. Nearly 70% of the country`s forest cover of 423,000 hectares (about 37% of the total land area) is degraded (National Forestry Assessment 2010).
The Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGWSSI) is a Pan African programme being implemented over 20 countries in the Sahara and Sahel region. The overall goal of the GGWSSI is to improve the resilience of human and natural systems in the Sahel-Saharan zone against climate changes through a sound and sustainable development of land resources, the protection of rural heritage and the improvement of the livelihoods of the populations living in these areas.
With FAO Technical support and EU financial support in 2012, The Gambia adopted a national action plan for the implementation of the GGWSSI. The project “Action against desertification” is supporting the implementation of this Action Plan, particularly in the northern regions of the River Gambia that is North Bank, Central River Region North and Upper River Region North covering 589,000 hectares. A key aim of the project is to enhance conditions and the enabling environment (laws, regulations, incentives, etc.) needed to enable rural communities to sustainably manage and use their natural resources. The project will directly assist some 390,283 (203,950 females and 186,329 males) who are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood.
The AAD project is being implemented by the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources with other Implementing Partners like the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), the Natural Resources Consulting (NACO) and the Association for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC) in close collaboration with FAO, responsible for project execution and the provision of technical support.
Source: FAO Gambia