The Gambia`s Forestry Policy, an African Success Story
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In 1995, The Republic of The Gambia began implementing the Gambian Forest Management Concept (GFMC) through their forest policy to promote community based forest management.
The GFMC promotes participatory forest management at the local, district, regional, and national levels.
The Forest Act of 1998 supported the objectives of GFMC through the establishment of the Participatory Forest Management Unit (PFMU) to provide Forestry Department support to the rural communities in the establishment of Community Forests.
This Year, The Gambia’s Community Forestry Policy has won silver in the 2011 Future Policy Awards as one of the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policies.
Three policies which most effectively contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for current and future generations were chosen as prize winners by the World Future Council at UN headquarters in New York.
Rwanda’s National Forest Policy claimed the first prize while the U.S Lacey Act and The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy shared the Silver Award.
The Gambia, with the support of FAO and other development partners, has developed and implemented the first policy and legislation in Africa to provide local populations with secure and permanent forest ownership rights.
Transferring forest tenure from state ownership to management by local communities enabled the country to reduce illegal logging and forest fires, slow desertification and benefit from using forest products.
“The success of The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy proves that even in the world’s poorest countries, with the right policies and legal framework in place, rural populations can benefit economically from forests and significantly improve their food security and environment,” said FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales.
FAO Goodwill Ambassador Carl Lewis, who attended the Awards ceremony, said that “The Gambia’s people-centered approach has been highly successful and represents a model to replicate in other countries with similar forestry environment.”
The task of transitioning from a centralized to a decentralized approach to forest management required a clearly defined programme to ensure that sustainable forest management is achieved.
In response, The National Forest Programme (NFP) of The Gambia was launched in 2009 to support participatory forest management.
For the past two years, NFP has been working towards poverty alleviation through sustainable forest management, reforestation, strategic partnerships, forestry conservation, and capacity building.
The coordinated efforts of all the stakeholders towards forestry initiatives through the NFP are essential to meeting the objectives of Gambian Forest Policy.
However, deforestation remains a major environmental issue in The Gambia. Once a country of thick forests, now less than three percent of the total forested area in the country is considered closed canopy, according to a national forestry inventory.
Loss of these forest lands has had both direct and large-scale consequences. Important sources of fuel, food, timber, and animal fodder have been lost. Habitats have been fragmented and destroyed.
Furthermore, deforestation accelerates global warming and leads to desertification in The Gambia.
Forests provide vital resources to the people of The Gambia. One of the most important and creative steps The Gambian government has taken toward protecting the forest resources of this country has been the introduction of the community forestry system of forest management.
However, community forestry has not yet reached its full potential in The Gambia. Collaboration of all stakeholders towards putting Forest Policy into practice is essential to ensuring the protection of one of The Gambia’s most valuable natural resources.
The creation of national, regional, and district forestry platforms will provide the opportunity to build capacity, coordinate efforts, and promote participatory forest management.
The government of The Gambia began to implement institutional, policy, and legislative forestry reform to support the transition of forest management to the local communities.
The creation of the Participatory Forest Management Unit (PFMU) and support from the GGFP and NFP paved the way for institutional reform in the promotion of community based participatory forest management.
This has lead to the formation of community forests, preliminary community forest management agreements, community forest management agreements, and finally the transfer of gazette community forest land.
In The Gambia, considerable efforts are now being put in place to address the remaining negative trends in order to progress towards sustainable forest management in all regions especially North Bank.
In the region of Africa, forests decrease at an alarming rate. But on a positive note, there has been an increase in the area of forest designated community management.
In The Gambia, productive functions of forest resources has been increase with the coming of The Gambia Forestry Communication Concept, and this empowers and encourages local communities to take ownership of their designated community forests. Employment and conservation have increased while the area under community ownership also increases.
There is one major treat facing the management of Gambian forest and that is bushfires. Bushfires get rampant each year throughout the country`s forests, reducing the quality of live for both the fauna and flora.
As an answer to this long awaited problem, Forestry department as years back declared December 10th as Anti-Bushfire Day. It is a day selected to reflect their attention to the damages incurs by the menace to both plant, animal and human lives.
In light of the above, a one day National Multi Stakeholder Steering Committee meeting to review activities under the National Forest Programme Facility (NFP) was held at the Baobab Holiday Resort.
NFP is implemented by the Department of Forestry in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Permanent Secretary Ministry of Forestry and the Environment, Lamin Jawara who was representing his Permanent Secretary said the forum was important as it would take stock of the progress registered so far as well as the challenges ahead in the implementation of the pilot programme.
The focal person for the National Forest Programme Facility Malang Jatta re-echoed similar sentiments adding that the meeting will also outline the project’s targets.
He noted that NFP is a three year pilot project which aims to address the issue of environmental degradation by supporting the sustainable exploitation and management of forest resources the world over, through community forest based enterprise development and reforestation.
Furthermore, Jatta disclosed that the NFP is a generic expression for a wide range of approaches towards forest policy formulation, planning, and implementation at the sub national and national levels.
He went further to emphasise that the facility aims to improve the livelihood of forest dependent communities through sustainable income generation based on forest product utilisation amongst other things.
In The Gambia, the pilot project is being implemented in Lower River and West Coast Regions.
Mr. Sambou Nget of the Department of Forestry revealed that the primary source of the term ‘national forest programme’ as applied today is the final report on the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forest.
Hence, an NFP serves as a framework to put international agreements on sustainable forest management into practice and is understood as an umbrella term, a product of consensus, to which all participating countries agree.
Other speakers included the Director of FFHC Alpha Khan, Mr. Yankuba Manneh Project Coordinator of St. Joseph Farms, Sarjo Fatajo of the Department of Forestry and Kanimang Camara Coordinator of NACO who also double as FAO Regional Trainer on Community Based Enterprise Development.