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Regional firewood producers and vendors meet in LRR

Mar 30, 2017, 12:39 PM

Regional representatives involved in the production and marketing of firewood met at the Pakalinding Trans-Gambia Lodge, in the Lower River Region, from the 17 to 21 March 2017 to revitalise the Firewood Producers and Marketing Association of The Gambia.

The programme with funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) and the National Farmers Platform of The Gambia (NFPG), aimed at revitalising and facilitating the functionality of the association so that it could deal with relevant policy and marketing issues for improved access and affordability of fuelwood by the population.  

Speaking at the meeting, Kanimang Camara, the national facilitator of FFF, said the aim of the workshop was to reflect on the past two decades of the activities of the association, and the contribution of the firewood sector to food security and nutrition, and to explore ways of strengthening these contributions through a strong and vibrant local structure.

 He said the workshop was expected to recommend revision of the out-dated constitution and adopt a revise one based on current circumstances and realities; restructure the organs and strengthen the capacity of members on organisational skills for the development and effective implementation of cross-sectoral policies on wood energy in enhancing access, affordability to enable food security and nutrition at all levels.

“This workshop comes at a timely period. As you may be aware, the recognition of access to wood energy’s role in food security and nutrition is increasing.  Appropriate cooking practices and access to clean water ensure secure utilization of food absorption at an individual level. Using of firewood for cooking is an important way of forests contributing to food security and nutrition”.

He said according to State of the World’s Forest (SOFO) 2014 report, over half of the wood produced in the world is used for energy and one in three households use wood as their main fuel for cooking.

“Wood energy is often the only energy source in rural areas of less developed countries, and is particularly important for poor people”.

 The latter has particularly important implications for food security and health, and in areas where fuelwood is becoming scarce due to deforestation and forest degradation, people may revert to eating fewer cooked meals.

With growing populations in some parts of the world, wood fuel use is also a cause of forest degradation.

In Africa, 63.1 per cent of the population is dependent on wood fuel (fuelwood & charcoal) for cooking, which is equivalent to 660 million people, the highest share of dependency on wood fuel for cooking in Africa than any other continents (Asia and Oceania: 38.4 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In The Gambia, over 85 per cent of the population is as well dependent on firewood for cooking, which is equivalent to 1, 530,000 people.

Affordability and access to firewood seems challenging for many urban dwellers and the sectors’ full contribution to sustainable livelihoods, including food security and nutrition are undervalued/ underestimated.

Lamin Sawaneh, the regional forestry officer (RFO) for LRR mentioned that the price increase of firewood had a significant impact on consumer attitude.

 Since the past twenty years, branch firewood is becoming more popular and represents about 25 per cent of total firewood sales.

“This is probably strongly underestimated as much of the branch wood is still escaping the official taxation and monitoring system, because it is transported in small quantities.”

 Both the price increase and the demand for branch wood constitute a formidable opportunity for sustainable community forestry in The Gambia, he said.

Mr Fatajoh, representing the Ministry of Energy re-echoed the institutional mandate of his ministry, especially in the area of alternative energy sources such as the introduction of various prototypes of improved stoves to reduce the dependency on firewood.

Wandi Keita, coordinator National Farmers Platform of The Gambia (NFPG) and Alhagie Jatta, community development officer LRR, both emphasised on the cordial working relationship.