Stakeholders raise the alarm over the gradual extinction of bamboo plantations in the Gambia

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The Bamboo Plantation at Bambo Forest Park

By: Kebba Ansu Manneh

Prominent leaders in the forestry and environmental sectors are alarmed at the swift and alarming disappearance of bamboo plantations from the nation’s forests.

TAT findings reveal that the Bamba Plantation Stand was established in Gambia as an experimental species in 1954, supervised by the Forester Edward Bruaw, in conjunction with the Mayalna Plantations. However, a recent visit by our reporter has disclosed that over half of the Bamboo Plantation has been either bulldozed or decimated, primarily due to the relentless activities of real estate agents, with evident ongoing construction and gardening operations.

“I’m highly concerned about the gradual extinction of the Bamboo Plantation, but the issue is above my level. I have been to court for nine conservative months with someone who tampered with the Plantation. Still, for one reason or another, the case was withdrawn from the court,” Omar Sidibeh, Plantation Manager of Bamba Forest Park, emotionally told TAT.

He added: “At one time, when I attempted to stop bulldozing of the plantation by the man, but I was a sermon to court by his Lawyer, who said I was interfering in his client’s land; it’s what I know about it.”

Omar Sidibeh is among multiple stakeholders interviewed in this TAT exclusive, who all echoed their concerns about the importance of the country’s only Bamboo Plantation Stand and its imminent extermination from the list of forest parks.

He told TAT that the Bamboo Plantation is part of the sixth (66) forest parks identified in the country that are under the protection, development, and management of the Ministry of Environment. He added that there is a great need to protect the only Bamboo Plantation Stand the country is endowed with, as the plant serves many purposes for local income generation for many vulnerable families.

“We (conservationists) recommend that the Government make Governments and launch legal action against the real estate agents who tempered with the Bamboo Plantation. We are also recommending that the Government create Governmentamboo Plantation forest parks across the country to increase the forest cover,” said Saikou Janko, President of the Kombo Foni Forestry Association (KOMFORA).

He added, “It’s very sad that we are losing the only Bamboo Forest Park in the country that has been serving as both a research and education center for researchers and forest students. Bamboo’s importance cannot be overemphasized. It can serve as furniture, roofing, and fencing material, as well as for clothing purposes, and we believe the Government needs to make every effort to Government.”

Sources have also accused authorities at the Ministry of Environment and Lands of issuing falsified land documents to real estate agencies. These agencies have reportedly encroached on the Plantation for over five years, yet no significant actions have been taken against these intruders. It is suggested that both ministries were alerted and fully informed about the ongoing destruction of the Plantation but failed to take any measures to halt the activities of the real estate agencies.

Saikou Janko, a renowned conservationist, underscored the importance of the Bamboo Plantation.

He said the Taiwanese created it to boost the country’s forest cover, noting that the Plantation was also created to serve as an avenue for research studies and a feeder to other communities that may like to venture into bamboo production.

According to him, the Plantation has been serving its purpose of creating economic activities for many Gambians who harvest Bamboo sticks for furniture production, roofing, and fencing.

He added that the continuous destruction of the Plantation will reduce the country’s forest cover and deprive many Gambians of the benefit of Bamboo products for both domestic and industrial uses.

TAT spoke with former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mbai Jabang, who denied any wrongdoing in anything dealing with the Bamboo Plantation.

He noted that every effort was made during his time, including leading a high-powered Government delegation to the site to stop any instruction of the Plantation that had existed since the early 1950s.

The former Permanent Secretary also denied any association with helping real estate agents acquire the Plantation, rebuffing allegations that he has aided and abated the agents’ efforts to gain a foothold on the Plantation that they have already started selling.

The Director of Forestry, Momodou Lamin Jaiteh, refuses to speak on the matter but told TAT that it is before the court and that he has nothing to offer.

TAT also spoke with a source close to the Alkalo of Jamburr, who revealed that the Alkalo of Jamburr has no hands in allocating the Plantation to Modou Jammeh. The source noted that the said Plantation is part of the Bamba Forest Park as a trial for growing Bamboo plants to supply other parts of the country.

He called on the Government to preserve the Bamboo Plantation to benefit the entire Gambia population while blaming the Ministry of Environment and Local Government for preparing false documents for the real estate agents who have started bulldozing and demarcating the Plantation.

TAT investigations revealed that almost three-quarters of the Plantation has been bulldozed and demarcated for either residential or garden use, leaving behind only a quarter of the Plantation.

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