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Parks and Wildlife convenes meeting on Jokadu National Park

Mar 14, 2011, 12:24 PM | Article By: Abdourahman Sallah

The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management at the weekend convened one-day consultative meeting at Kerr Jarga Jobe in Jokadu district.

The meeting was meant to discuss the proposed Jokadu National Park as a protected area in Nuimi Jokadu District, North Bank Region.

 The process, according to officials, began with series of assessments to determine the ecological potential of the proposed National Park.

Speaking at the meeting, Alpha Omar Jallow, director of Parks and Wildlife Management, stated that the consultative meeting, which attracts stakeholders, local authorities and dignitaries from the ministry, was organised by Program of Work on Protected Area (PoWPA), a project under the auspices of his department.

The ultimate objective of the meeting was to consult member settlement communities to voice out whether they have any asset(s) owned by individuals or community within the proposed national park, to make arrangement about the said asset(s) within the proposed park.

He further underscored the significance of the meeting, saying it would serve as an avenue for individuals or groups to claim ownership of their asset(s) (if there is any) that happen to fall within the proposed national park.

He said the meeting was very important and was meant not only for people of Jokadu but also for Lower Badibu and Upper Niumi, "since they are also affected".

For his part, Kawsu Jammeh, the PoWPA project manager in The Gambia, stated that several meetings have been conducted in the past all geared towards raising awareness of the local communities.

The communities, he acknowledged, are the rightful owners of the proposed Jokadou National Park thus essential to making them well informed ahead of any development.

There are lot of benefits that could be harnessed from protected area both for the communities and the government, he says, citing an example of the Senegalese biosphere "which has brought a lot of communities' sub-projects". "This has increased income and improved the living conditions of those living within the national park," he added. "These benefits might not be enjoyed by us but the generation to come may enjoy them."

He added: "We should help to prevent bushfires and other illegal activities but in short the meeting is geared towards making people take ownership of their property that needs to be protected for the interest of the nation."

Alhagie Manjang, deputy director of DPWM, said the protection of any national park involves the local communities, local authorities and central government, for the benefit of the nation and the world.

"The International community provides the support for the protection of a particular site that is benefitting the entire world. The staff did a good job of making you (communities) understand the whole process," he said.

Ebrima Darboe, the principal secretary at the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, said that even the snakes that people term as enemies are very useful. "The frequent cutting of trees will result into soil infertility leading to buying of more fertilizes, which may affect our economy seriously," he said.

He also said they have realised that before the place could be declared a protected area, such a meeting must be convened for the communities to voice out their concerns regarding assets within the proposed park.

"Although all properties are left out except few rice fields during the demarcation exercise, it is a requirement for the communities to be given a three-month period to be able to report their assets within the proposed park, if any, before the declaration of the area as a national park," he said.

The chief of Jokadu District, Seyfo Jim Fatima Jobe, commended the department for its work at the park and assured its management of their full supports.