The acting-Director of the Forestry Department, Sambou Nget, has said the Gambia government through the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, and with support from development partners, “has made remarkable strides toward forest landscape protection and management over the years.”
He said this was made possible through the formulation of an appropriate forest policy framework, which takes into account the need to transfer forests to local communities in order to increase access and guaranty both tenure security and socioeconomic benefits through its community forestry programme.
Mr Nget was speaking during the opening of a three-day national workshop on community forestry and food security and nutrition held at the Paradise Suites Hotel recently.
According to Mr Nget, the community forestry programme attempts to fully involve the local population in the management and sustainable utilization of their forest resources, by vesting in them consciousness of ownership of land and the trees that grow in their forests.
The concept stipulates that in future most of the countries’ natural forests shall be owned and managed by the local populations, in the form of community forests for livelihood improvement, as well as environmental protection, he said.
According to him, the introduction of community forestry in The Gambia has sparked other participatory forestry management approaches, and concepts such as joint forest park management, community controlled state forest management, community-based forest enteprise development and a forest communication concept.
All these efforts are geared toward a more active involvement of all the stakeholders in forest resources management, as well as to transfer state forest ownership to the local community to allow them have greater access to forest products and services for enhancement of their livelihoods and food security, he added.
Despite the significant progress made, considerable challenges remain, which require urgent attention, he said, adding that primarily, it is the increased visibility and integration of forestry into other sectors and the slow pace of transfer of forest tenure to local communities.
The establishment of a new global initiative under the name, forest and farm facility, launched in The Gambia in 2013, is supported by FAO, IUCN, IIED and the World Bank and, he noted.
These remaining challenges in the implementation of national forestry programmes could now be seriously tackled, he said.
This new initiative, he added, would help countries improve their forest governance structures at different local levels, national and regional to achieve sustainable forest landscape management, whilst boosting food security and promoting climate-smart agriculture.
He thanked the FAO and its partners for supporting this initiative and also for their continued support to the government and people of The Gambia, especially for selecting The Gambia to hold such a very important national forum on community forestry and food security and nutrition.