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Wood re-exporters press for protection of the forest

Nov 27, 2012, 11:26 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

Following the temporal lifting of the ban on timber re-export trade, the Association of the Wood Re-exporters and Forest Users in The Gambia, in collaboration with relevant government stakeholders, recently conveyed a daylong general meeting with the aim of putting strategies in place to eliminate malpractices in the forest.

Representatives from GRA, customs, the Ministry of Forestry, Office of the President, loaders, truck drivers and wood traders were all in attendance.

The meeting discussed how to eliminate all forms of malpractices in the trade and avoidance of felling of little trees in The Gambia among others.

In his welcoming remarks, the secretary general of the association of wood re-exporters, Kebba Kinteh, said the meeting was necessitated by the press release from the Office of the President for the temporal lifting of the ban on wood re-export trade until 31 December 2012.

He said there were lots of ups and downs surrounding the opening and closing of the wood re-export trade, which involves a lot of malpractices.

The association deemed it very necessary to call on all stakeholders to sit and discuss, and share ideas during the meeting, aimed at eliminating all forms of malpractices in the re-export trade industry.

“The objective of this meeting is for the stakeholders to come up with relevant ideas for the good of our Gambian forest,” he said, adding that the meeting served as an opportunity for stakeholders to look into the wood re-export trade and “come up with recommendations that will serve as a guiding principles in our day to day operations within the wood re-export trade”.

He also used the opportunity to call on stakeholders to contribute their quota to the formulation of the recommendations and best strategies in the best interests of Gambian people.

In his speech the chairman of the Association of Wood re-export and Forest Users in The Gambia, Lamin Barrow, hailed the stakeholders for their turnout, particularly from the Office of the President, customs, GRA, the Ministry of Forestry, forestry department, and among other relevant institutions.

The meeting was also held for timber dealers and stakeholders to sit and look into to issues that led to the closure of the timber in order to iron it out malpractices and adopt best practices that will help in the protection of the country’s forest and the Gambian people.

It will be very unfair always to be appealing to the President for more than five times about the same problems, he said.

Therefore this meeting is very important as it will serve as a guiding principle in the operations of permit holders within the trade industry,” he added.

Mr Barrow also raised very important issue as regards Gambian business people and their foreign counterparts, saying Gambian forest dealers should not be moved by money to violate the country’s law and destroy her forest.

He also seized the opportunity to advise the licence holders to be honest to their foreign counterparts by telling them the truths of refraining from going on the ground to negotiate for the buying of timbers from the drivers.

He urged all importers, transporters and exporters present at the meeting to be honest to each others to protect the image of the country’s timber industry.

He then took the opportunity to thank President Jammeh for lifting the trade ban for this short period of time, adding that the continuity of the lifting of the wood re-export trade ban is dependent on the timber dealers.  “Therefore, surely from this forum, recommendations will be formulated in the best interests of our Gambian people,” he said.

In his official opening remarks, the deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Forestry, Lamin Jawara, lamented on the importance of the conversation and preservation of the country’s forest, which he said the timber dealers need to be aware of.

He said the forests are protected due to so many developmental issues related to forest covers.

He outlined the negative impact contributing to the increase of climate change in the environment.

He also went on to buttress the important role of everybody in the protection of the country’s forest.

He challenged the timbers not to allow certain unscrupulous people to hold the forest into ransom for their own benefit. The deputy permanent secretary further stated the protection of the country’s forest, calls for collective responsibility to safeguard the forest cover for the good of the future generation.