Stakeholders call on the Gov’t to cease charcoal production, logging, and degazetting of forest parks

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Bijilo Forest Park

Environmental advocates are calling on The Gambian authorities to curb deforestation by decreasing logging, halting charcoal manufacturing, and preserving woodlands.

The dwindling national forest cover is attributed, in part, to these activities, as well as others, while facing threats from climate change and global warming.

During an exclusive interview with TAT Senior National Correspondent on International Forest Day, they highlighted the significance of preserving forest cover.

The Gambia has the best-written forest policy document among many African countries, but implementing these documents is a nightmare. Charcoal Production, for example, has been banned in the country since the 1970s, but today, critical stakeholders like Alkalos and senior government officials are contracting people to burn charcoal for them; this is a fundamental cause of concern that needs to be addressed,” Saikou Janko, Chairman of the Kombo-Foni Forest Association (KOMFORA), observed.

He added, “Forestry officials are doing their best to protect and safeguard the forest cover, but unfortunately, these key stakeholders are making their job extremely difficult because they prepare documents authorizing the falling of logs in the forest now and again. If this trend continues in a few years, we will lose all the big trees in our forest.”

He said his association has recently concluded a tour of five African countries, including Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, and Burkina Faso. Still, the level of destruction of Gambia’s forest cover supersedes any of these countries, adding that the Gambia is significantly losing its forest cover due to charcoal production, logging, and deglazing of the forest parks.

On International Forest Day, marked on March 21st, 2024, the KOMFORA Chairman emphasized that the Gambian Government must motivate forestry officials through capacity building and mobility provision to prevent corruption and unwarranted deforestation.

Demba Baldeh, a renowned Gambian environmentalist based in the United States of America, also commented on the significance of International Forest Day.

He observed that the Government has not done anything significant to protect the nation’s forests over the years, especially regarding its idea of degazetting portions of the country’s remaining forest cover.

“The Government should mobilize all resources and funds from donors and projects earmarked for the fight against climate change to support renewable and green energy. This can be done by making gas cheap and affordable so every household can easily use it. This will reduce the use of wood and charcoal and, in the long run, phase it out,” Demba Baldeh advances one method of safeguarding forest cover.

He added: “All forest reserves and parks should be left untouched no matter what.”

The renowned environmentalist also observed that the nation should move away from mere tree planting and instead grow trees, bearing in mind that the annual tree planting exercises are not paying as much dividend as expected.

He noted that stringent measures should be taken to ensure that those planting trees using the country’s funds nurture the trees to grow and protect them from wildfires.

He said, “Essentially, we should plant trees on our farms, along the roads, and in residential areas to make sure they are supported to grow. Communities should be supported in planting trees within their environment and given allowances to protect them. These and many other strategies should be adopted to preserve and protect our forests for sustainability.”

Famara Drammeh, also an environmentalist, expressed his disappointment in the Minister of Environment’s failure to make a statement on state television about the day’s significance.

He observed that the Minister of Environment was supposed to deliver a speech about the importance of protecting our Forest resources to our health and agriculture and fight against climate change.

Drammeh also observed the need for a forest talk show program on the nation’s radio stations to sensitize citizens about the importance of forest cover. He observed that the Department of Forestry created Media and Community Forest Units to engage citizens and educate local communities on how to protect their forest covers. Still, this unit has yet to be effective.

Many others who spoke to TAT observed that the ban on charcoal Production and the use of chainsaws in the country should be enforced to safeguard the nation’s forests for the benefit of this generation and posterity.

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