Kanimang Camara, Director of Natural Resources Consulting (NACO), who doubles as the national facilitator for Forest and Farm Facility of The Gambia has outlined the achievements of Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), in The Gambia in May 2013-2014.
He said the Forest and Farm facility funded through the FAO has three pillars: organising forest and farm producers organization at the National Farmer Platform of the Gambia (NFPG) and their affiliated products based groups for improved access to finance and market opportunities for their production.
The other pillar was to strengthen government cross-sectoral coordination on agriculture and Natural Resources and Management, he said.
Mr Camara noted that during the recently ended National Farmer Platform of The Gambia they had a letter of agreement to implement key priority activities in support of forest and farm producer organization.
He highlighted some of the achievements of Forest and Farm Facility, which included sensitization of local producer groups on Agriculture Natural Resources Policy, results of National Forest Assessment Results 2010 and Draft Biodiversity and Wildlife policy 2013 through radio talk shows.
Baseline survey and capacity needs assessment of producer groups in the country over 60 groups were also surveyed, as well as two-day national market awareness meetings between the cashew producer organization and other actors along the markets chain.
He said FFF went further to assess the functionality of community forest (CF) committees and validity of CF management plans in 59 CFs in Central River Region, conclusion of backlog of Community Forest Management Agreements (CFMAS) and CF Management plansin progress, support CF committees on forest management planning and enterprise development planning ongoing.
According to Mr Camara, despite considerable challenges with regard to organizing multi-sectoral institutions, communication and converging divergent views on natural resources management, the FFF initiative had achieved considerable outputs on national, regional and local level.
He said the outcomes of FFF support implementation were important with regard to strengthening government cross-sectoral coordination on Agriculture and Natural Resources Management in The Gambia, thus include awareness raising meetings with the ANR Working Group members and National Coordinating Oraganization for Farmer Network (NACOFAG) and National Farmers Platform of The Gambia (NFPG) on the major outcomes of FFF launching workshop where 40 key stakeholders participated in both meeting, comprehensive integration of relevant stakeholders representing Government and Non-Government Organizations, local farmer organizations and network with regard to ANR issues through the establishment of “an all inclusive ANR platform” under the ANR working group, ANR platform established, functional and dealing with key ANR sector issues (coordinating stakeholder efforts in Sustainable Land Management and synergies with existing and up-coming platforms).
According to Mr Camara, there were seven regional awareness raising meetings on ANR Policy 2009-2015 (140 Regional Technical Advisory Committees and Local Government Councilors & 360 local authorities participated in all the meeting).
Capacity development programme for 12 staff of relevant institutions involved in CF designation process line (Department of Forestry, Department of Justice, Department of Lands and Surveys, Gambia Printing and Publication Corporation, Radio & Television Service and NACO), he added.
He said Forest and Farm Facility conducted training of 10 staff of Department of Forestry on Enterprise Development Planning using elements of MA&D in order to facilitate CFMs to develop their EDPs.
Forest and Farm Facility, he went on, Gambia coach visited the country to assess level of FFF support to the country and introduce the Monitoring and Learning (M&L) framework to key stakeholders.
Another outcome of the visit was the development of draft Loans to support 3 key stakeholder institutions to implement priority FFF activities and NEA & FAO negotiating a Letter of Agreement in support of the multi-stakeholder platform (ANR).
Regarding the challenges encountered during the implementation of the FFF, Mr Camara said Farmer Organizations are not well organized; associations and federations are not connected to their members at grassroots level, majority of producer groups not legally registered.
Therefore, he added, access to services and supports by the groups was challenging, executive members of Farmer Organizations lack capacities on simple financial management, group management and strengthening skills and institutional and structural issues leading to conflicts and misunderstandings betweenproducer groups and their associations, associations and federations, associations and networks.
On the outlook for 2014, Mr Camara, said the FFF develop strategies for supporting local producer groups and their association, support implementation of grants, support forest user groups to obtain legal ownership over forests, engage in facilitation process with local producer organizations in The Gambia to ensure their functionality at national and sub-national levels for policy processes and business development, regional market awareness meetings between the main producer groups and other actors along the market chain, support the commissioning of reviewing the ANR Policy (late 2014), facilitate the participation of Government, Non- Government and local producer groups in regional and international forum on forest and farm, build capacity of government and small holders on methods and tools for impact monitoring of policy implementation, collaborate with Department of Water Resources so that local farmers have access to climate information, collaborate with other actorssuch that producer groups have access to market information and credit, support main product groups, associations and federations toconduct congresses and Annual General Meetings (AGMs), support exchange visits between groups and communities to stimulate dialogues on the benefits of joining groups/organizations, and cross-fertilization between Liberia and Gambia FFF initiatives (International visits).