NFP Applauds Communities for Sustainable Forest Management
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
All over the world, the rapid depletion of the natural forest cover has been a concern for decades. The over exploitation of forest for timber, fuel wood, charcoal, animal grazing as well as bush clearing for agriculture and human settlements are key factors contributing to the rapid loss of forests. Moreover, rampant and hardly controllable bushfires cause considerable obstacle to all efforts to regenerate and conserve forests. In The Gambia, the forest cover has diminished by nearly 100,000 hectares in years. For these reasons, in The Gambia and other countries in the world, a new concept has emerged that embraces all stakeholders in a collective effort to manage and rationally exploit forest resources. This new concept is known as the National Forest Programme Facility (NFP). The concept is a flexible mechanism that opens up to all partnerships and collaboration. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is supporting The Gambia`s NFP on a three year pilot project since 2009 through grants to non-states actors that qualify to implement activities in the West Coast and Lower River Regions as a pilot project. In the first phase of the NFP in 2010, the National Consultancy on Rural Extension and Training (NACO) was contracted to introduce forestry livelihoods development programmes in the pilot areas. St Joseph`s Family Farm was awarded the rehabilitation of degraded lands through reforestation and the Freedom From Hunger Campaign took on the consolidation and expansion of community Forests in the area, while the National Network of Communicators on Climate Change (NNCCC) is given the responsibility for information, education and communication, and the audio-visual documentation of the project. The Gambia`s NFP is reported to be progressing very well according to a team of reporters and experts on the management of natural resources that trekked around the implementation sites of the pilot programme. In West Coast and Lower River Regions were the NFP project is piloted, communities as well as implementers applauded the great strive registered in the transfer of ownership of forest from the state to local the people. At Toumami Tenda in the West Coast Region, the villagers have not only instituted sound and sustainable forest resource management and preservation practices, but also established a vibrant eco-tourism industry comprising catering facilities, accommodation as well as guided bush tours and creek cruises. The enterprise now yield dividend for village development activities and livelihoods. Kanimang Camara, Director of National Consultancy on Rural Extension and Training (NACO) explains, “If you consider Toumani Tenda it is actually a sample because they are involve in sustainable forest management as well as sustainable community development activities. The forest they are managing Kachicorr Community Forestry area has generated lots of benefit for the community since 1996 and has continued to provide incentive for them.” The proceeds of the eco-tourism camp are actually invested in community development activities. For example the proceeds of the enterprise pay the feeding programme for the entire school, and when it comes to the payments of rates and taxes, the entire compound owners are supported through the payment of their taxes and rates. He said they facilitate and strategise it in such a way that the community selecting the Non-Timber Products. “If you look into that projection, we are talking about 2.5million dalasis turn over especially with enterprise based on honey. Honey is promising in Batelling, Bulanjurr, Buram were a huge harvest of honey is being foreseen.” NACO boss revealed. Malang Jatta, the NFP focal point at the Department of Forestry noted that what he heard from the communities during their visit was very impressive. He noted that the benefits communities derived from their community forests through eco-tourism are numerous and paramount to their village development. Elsewhere in Kafuta, Bessi, Bambako, Nema and Jarra Jabisaa, similar successes were registered. At the Kafuta Forestry School, NACO is running training courses in forest management and the latest badge of 42 in-service trainees are already for graduation and active service. According to one of the graduates Pierre Colley, they are very enthusiastic and willing to compliment government`s effort in the protection, preservation and management of the forest. In Bessi village, the chairman of the community forest committee Malang Camara also exhibited a successful tree nursery for reforestation activities. He also has 30 bee hives in three cashew plantations, thanks to the educational and sensational programmes run by St. Joseph`s Family Farm. In Kiang and Jarra districts in LRR, the people are encouraged by the sensitisation activities of Freedom From Hunger Campaign (FFHC). Here villagers demarcated their surrounding forests for sustainable management and rational socio-economic exploitation. There are reports of good financial returns and benefits from the already established community forests which are lending great support to poverty alleviation and village development programmes. As a result, the demand for community forestry is sky rocketing. Meanwhile, NACO intimates that work to update the forestry field workers` manual which seeks to streamline and accelerate the implementation of the National Forest Policy is at an advance stage. The Kombo-Foni Forestry Association (KONFORA) on their part have concluded the first round of consultation with communities at the district level in a bit to establish the first ever district, regional and national forestry platform in the country.
Author: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang