By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
The Executive Director of the Agency for Development of Women and Children (ADWAC) has disclosed that desertification is a major economic, social and environmental problem of great concern to many countries including the Gambia and many other regions in the world. As women and children are the most vulnerable and hard hit by any environmental phenomenon, ADWAC Executive Director said his organisation have implemented several activities on behalf of the Action Against Desertification (AAD) project that supports the implementation of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) and South-South Cooperation in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
As prescribed in the letter of agreement signed between FAO and his agency, Mam Samba Joof disclosed that his organisation is tasked to provide services to improve local institutions’ capacity in Sustainable Forest Resource Management. According to him during community outreach activities, Regional awareness raising meetings on the project were conducted in North Bank, Central River North and Upper River Regions and other five Districts.
ADWAC also engaged in the training of community members within the project intervention areas on the construction of mud stove prototypes stoves using available local materials (Mud, animal dung and straw) aimed at promoting the abandoning of the three stone traditional stoves which will complement the objectives of the metallic stoves by reducing the current pressure on the forest resources. The trained personnel from the communities could also use it as source of local self-employment venture in other none intervening communities.
This was manifested in most communities during the training session. According to ADWAC boss, over two thousand (2,000) stoves are currently under construction while over two thousand five hundred forty (2,540) metallic stoves are to be distributed to the project implementation sites.
Collecting voice of the beneficiaries on the new improved technology, Kani Kanteh of Niani Salikenye reported that “After cooking lunch on the mud stove, I leave part of the rice for lunch on the stove and in the evening I don’t need to cook rice as the leftover for lunch will still be warm enough”. On an equal footing, Dembo Drammeh of Wuli Ndrammani, URR revealed that “the use of the mud stove by my wife has considerably reduce the time I spent in collecting firewood. Now it takes me 2-3 days before I go to the bush to collect firewood instead of everyday as in the past”.
Also conducted was a baseline survey on legal status of Community Forests and Joint Forest Parks under Co-management, Regional Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Forums under the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) sub- group established and functional in NBR, CRR & URR, and 100 Forest Management Committees (FMCs) were also trained on Participatory Forest Management Concepts in the three implementation regions of the project sites.
Joint Forest Park Management Agreements were also concluded for Tanu and Dobo Forest Parks; Community outreach activities were conducted in Daru Fodayba and Karantaba villages in the North Bank Region, Kuntaur Fulla Kunda and Jahaba in Central River Region and Sutukonding in Upper River Region with the objectives of re-introducing Community Forest (CF) concept to the local communities.
However, Livelihoods and diversification through Community- Based Enterprise Development were strengthened by organised training on Enterprise Development and Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) for Community Forest Management Committee (CFMC) members targeting the Action Against Desertification Project (AADP) intervention sites in North Bank, Central River and Upper River Regions.
According to ADWAC boss, 100 Forest Management Committee members were trained on Organisational Group Management, capacities of 30 key stakeholders strengthened on Community Forestry Conflict Management using Consensual Negotiation tools; fifteen Community Forest Committee members and three project implementing partner staff were trained on Community- Based Forest Enterprise Development using Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) approach and fifteen Enterprise Development Plans were developed by Interest group members based on Honey and Wax.
On Community outreach activities on Drought, Land Degradation and Desertification issues in the three project Regions, series of activities were conducted by ADWAC including sensitising Community Forest Management Committees on terms and conditions of Preliminary Community Forest Management Agreement (PCFMA) and Community Forest Management Agreement (CFMA); facilitate and assess SLM activities, handing over of thirty PCFMAs to local communities in North Bank Region with funding from CILSS Community-Based Sustainable Land Management and Adaptation to Climate Change (CBSLM) Project by the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Hon. Lamin Dibba.
In addition according to Mam Samba, thirty-nine CFMAs were handed over to local communities nation-wide by the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Hon. Lamin Dibba with funding from Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) and AADP. Also facilitated in the seven districts include Bushfire management planning, Conflict Management Meeting facilitated in Misira village (ownership dispute between Misira and Sare Fudekeh villages, series of Radio-Talk Shows and Phone-in programmes on GRTS Basse and other community radio stations on Bushfire prevention, control and management with funding from FFF to Upper River Region Community Forest Association (URCOFA).
In an effort to bring capacity building to the door step of the localities, ADWAC has conducted nine Regional SLM Forum meetings targeting 25 participants per meeting while the second SLM focused validating the Terms of Reference, re-confirming institutional involvement and selecting a chairperson and secretary to the Forum where seventy Regional stakeholders participated on both meetings in the three project implemented Regions.
According to ADWAC boss, Regional Governors and TAC members are to assist, review, coordinate, monitor and formulate ANR sectoral policies and related activities in the Region, conduct quarterly meeting to deal with key emerging ANR issues in the Region, contribute to awareness raising and capacity building of the population on ANR issues and liaise with the Working Group and Platform at National level to disseminate Management and other related issues.
In strengthening their capacity, Joof said in each of the three Regions chairpersons and secretaries were nominated to organise and support the activities of the Forum and report back to the Regional TACs. The third meeting of the Forum focused on developing monitoring plan for field visit to assess SLM activities in the Regions, develope Implementation plans, while the fourth meeting was to review and document the results of the field monitoring of SLM activities and sharing of the results with the entire SLM membership and the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs).
Field trips were conducted as planned involving 15 participants per Region to assess the impacts on livelihood and environment, sustainability in terms of participation and sense of ownership by the beneficiaries and level of awareness among communities on Drought, Land Degradation and Desertification (DLDD) issues and SLM activities and programmes in CRR and URR with increased public awareness and action on combating Desertification.
Pointing out some of the activities carried and implemented by Natural Resources Consulting (NACO) in providing “Services to improve local institutions’ capacity in Sustainable Forest Resource Management”, Kanimang Camara revealed that in order to get correct information on the status of villages involved in Community Forestry (CF) and Joint Forest Park Management (JFPM) in the project sites, NACO and Department of Forestry conducted desk top review and reality checks in the field and at village level to ascertain the legal status of CFs and JFPM areas in the project intervention sites.
NACO boss revealed that data collected provided relevant information on Legal status of Forest Areas under CF; Existence of Forest Management Plans both for CFs and JFPM Areas; Status of Forest Management Agreements (CFs & JFPM); Information management at Forest Station level (Filling systems); and Potential villages to approach for Co-management of Pakala Forest Park in the North Bank Region.
To trigger popular and holistic approach, Camara noted that three regional and district awareness raising meetings on the Project were conducted targeting TACs and District Chiefs in the project sites, with the rationale to inform and obtain the consent of relevant stakeholders in the implementation of planned project activities.
In addition, NACO and DoF Field staff in CRR North conducted 16 village meetings on management and co-management of Tanu and Bustaan villages that are partner to Dobo Forest Park, while series of sensitisation on Joint Forest Park Management Committees were also conducted at Tanu and Dobo Forest Parks in Central River Region and signing of Forest Park Co-management Agreements.
According to NACO forestry technician, more village sensitisation meetings on Community Forest Management Concept were also conducted in Daru Fodayba and Karantaba villages in the NBR, Kuntaur Fulla Kunda and Jahaba in CRR and Sutukonding in URR with the objectives of re-introducing community forestry concept to the local communities.
In a collaborative approach, he disclosed that conflict transformation and Bushfire Management Planning meetings were conducted, while FFF’s Small Grants was provided to Upper River Region Community Forest Association (URCOFA) to pursue bushfire management strategies in the Region. High fire risk areas and high priority forest areas were mapped with appropriate fire control and management strategies agreed upon by each of 7 Districts in the Region.
Radio talk shows and phone-in programmes alongside controlled early burning strategies were implemented according to fire management plans developed with active participation of local communities in selected sites to protect high Priority Forest Areas. He pointed out, noting that increased awareness among Local Authorities and law enforcement agents on relevant Regulations and Acts were also conducted.
During these trainings, participants were introduced to relevant tools of Consensual Negotiation process for natural resources management and issues leading to conflicts were as well analysed.