Jan 13, 2014, 9:31 AM
The task force visited Minister Pa Ousman Jarju to brief him on the implementation of the Forest Policy provision of handing over the responsibility of managing natural forests to local communities.
Speaking on the occasion, Cherno Gaye, head of Participatory Forest Management Unit at the Department of Forestry, said the request for the meeting came from the National Farmers Platform of The Gambia and the ‘All Gambia Forestry Platform’ in collaboration with the Regional Community Forestry Task force members.
The task force was formed to complement the collective efforts of stakeholders in facilitating sustainable forest and farm management in the country.
Alagie Basse Mboge, national president of Farmer Platform, said the support being rendered to the task force through the Forest and Farm Facility of FAO is facilitating an all-inclusive policy dialogue and participation.
He said empowering local communities with vested interests in sustainable forest management cannot be achieved without appropriate forest tenure arrangements.
The Chief of Illiasa District, North Bank Region, Alhagie Ebrima K. Jammeh, said the nation’s forest cover, when sustainable manage, can benefit the present and future generations.
Chief Jammeh said in NBR this year, they are able to contain the occurrence of forest fire.
However, he lamented the influx of transhumance herders and the practice of looping of ‘mother trees’ in the region by ‘strange herders’.
“Even ‘Neem’ trees are looped to feed the livestock,” he said while urging the ministry to facilitate ownership transfer of the forest to the communities so that the locals can contribute in apprehension of those unsustainable practices.
For his part, Minister Pa Ousman Jarju acknowledged that transferring the management of the forest to the communities “is in the best interest of the local population and the nation at large”.
Jarju explained that since the portfolio of the Forestry Ministry was designated to him, his first step was to meet the staff of the Department of Forestry to discuss institutional mandate of the department and bottlenecks it faces.
Forestry bill in the offing
The environment minister said progress is on course to enact the Forestry Bill, 2015 which would emphasise participatory forest management alongside the provision of legislative backing to transfer forests to local communities.
“When the bill is enacted, a nationwide consultation will be done to sentitise people on the key provisions of the Act,” he said.
After its enactment, community forestry process will be reactivated and forest management agreements will be concluded with “deserving villages”.
Minister Jarju raised eyebrows on the high rate of deforestation, especially in Kiang West District of Lower River Region.
“This needs to be halted and controlled,” he warned.
Jarju said his focus now is to pursue ecosystem management approach and already an integrated project concept note is developed towards the management of the nation’s ecosystem for today and posterity.
He said very soon the ANR (Agriculture and Natural Resources) Platform and Working Group will deliberate on the draft concept note for adjustment and finalization.