Feb 5, 2009, 5:55 AM
Hello and a warm welcome to another edition of Environment, your weekly column aimed at bringing environmental issues into the limelight. Over the weekend, the Ministry of Forestry and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture in association with the Association of Wood Re-exporters and Forest Users in The Gambia and local people, embarked on a massive tree planting exercise at Kanfenda junction, towards Kanilai in the Foni Kansala district of the West Coast Region.
The replanting is part of a national initiative to restock and revive some of The Gambia’s lost forests. Replanting is also due to take place in other regions across the country.
Officials say that replanting has a significant role to play in mitigating climate change and the environmental degradation that negatively impacts the country’s food security. Mangrove and tree planting is needed along the coastal shoreline and in the protected areas to prevent soil erosion, thus helping to maximise crop production in order to help tackle food insecurity.
Last weekend’s replanting exercise was organised and funded by the Association of Wood Re-exporters and Forest Users in The Gambia. Speaking at the exercise, Lamin Barrow, chairman of the association, reaffirmed his association’s support for the tree planting exercises across the country, adding that one of the reasons for the association’s existence was to support the Ministry of Forestry and Environment in replacing lost trees. During the exercise 800 mahogany seedlings were transplanted at a cost of about D150, 000 including the protective fencing; as part of the association’s efforts to afforest the lost vegetation in the country.
According to Mr. Barrow, in 2010 the association donated over D200, 000 to the Ministry of Forestry and Environment to support tree planting in the country. Last year, the association planted trees from the entrance of the airport to the main terminal building as well as at the University of The Gambia in Faraba Bantang and in Banjul.
The association has approximately 500 members operating in the areas of timber dealing, timber import and export, charcoal dealing, fire wood dealing among others. According to Mr. Barrow, members are monitored and supervised to protect against malpractice and it is one of the principles of the organisation to follow every license they are operating. This is to give support to government in terms of easy coordination and monitoring to ensure the protection and conservation of the forestry and environment resources.
Mr. Barrow added that every Gambian is a forest user and that 95% of The Gambia is dependent on the forest in one way or another, thus making it necessary to embark on such a replanting initiative. He stated that as a result of this fact, every year his association comes up with a plan to plant different varieties of trees.
The Minister of Forestry and Environment, Fatou Gaye, described the exercise as very important and timely, adding that this is the right time for any planting as it coincides with the rainy season. She urged the beneficiary communities to ensure that the trees reach maturity. She commended the Association of Wood Re-exporters and Forest Users in The Gambia for its initiative and called to others to follow its lead.
Mrs. Gaye also stated that ensuring healthy forest cover requires a collective effort. Solomon Owen, Minister of Agriculture, expressed gratitude to the association for its initiative. He emphasised the significance of tree planting in addressing the environmental change which has been the result of the loss of The Gambia’s woodland over the past few decades. He said that the forests serve as a bank for people who value it and we should ensure that the flora and fauna are conserved and protected not for only foreign income but also so as to create job opportunities for Gambians.
Mr. Owen used the occasion to appeal to the local community to put strategies in place to ensure that the planted trees are well secured and protected so that they reach maturity. He also said that the government wants to see a 100% survival rate, while urging the communities to ensure that forest cover must be maintained so as to encourage more rainfall to maximise crop production in order to achieve food self-sufficiency and reduce poverty.
Sajor Fatajo, the Acting Director of the Forestry Department, stated that we are in the planting season and therefore called on all to embark on replanting, noting that trees form an integral part of human survival. He said: “No trees, no life.”
Mr. Fatajo said that his department is ready to give technical support to organisations or individuals who want to embark on such initiatives. He commended Mr. Barrow and his colleagues for what he described as a worthy cause.
Yerro Jallow spoke on behalf of the Basse Youth Association. He assured the gathering of his organisation’s readiness to take part in such a worthy initiative. He said: “We assure the wood re-exporters that we will continue to work hand in glove with them in the restoration of our forest cover.”
Other speakers included the alkalis of Kanilia and Kanfenda villages, Lamin Bojang and Ebou Jammeh, who expressed their appreciation and hailed the association for is initiative. They said that the event is long overdue judging by the current state of the environment.
Speaking on behalf of the youths, Modou Lamin Jatta spoke at length on the role of young people in nation building, saying that Gambian youths should always be at the forefront of any national endeavor and this includes the protection and conservation of the environment.
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