By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
Climate Change and desertification play a significant role in destabilizing the already human development gains, and therefore called for a holistic mobilization in curbing the long ailing environmental menace that entangled the sustainable development of the continent. On the African continent, poverty reduction, sustainable and economic development are deeply intertwined and dependent on the management of natural resources such as land, water, forest, aquatic resources and biodiversity, which provide the basis for livelihood and economic growth.
These resources, however, are highly vulnerable and under stress due to climate factors, population growth and poor management practices. Nearly half of Africa`s population live in ecologically sensitive drylands and as a result of frequent and severe shocks, especially droughts, the future promises to be even more challenging.
Therefore land, natural resources degradation and desertification are a threat to the continent`s livelihood and development chain, and this called for urgent sustainable land management in Africa`s drylands. This constitute the main challenges of the twenty first century, and called for a committed and holistic approach.
Translating this vision needs into implementable programmes, led to the establishment of Action Against Desertification (AAD) Project. It is an EU-ACP funded initiative supporting the implementation of the Gambia Green Wall for Sahara and Sahel Initiatives (GGWSSI), with the aim of tackling integrated Sustainable Land Management (SLM) approach in an effort to combat desertification.
Launched in the Gambia in May 2016, in the provincial Regions of North Bank, North of Central River and Upper River, the project covers a total area of 589,000 ha of degraded land and is being implemented effectively with relevant stakeholders and partners.
The project is being executed by FAO Gambia-Country Office through Government of the Gambia as the implementing agency in collaboration with four partners namely: Department of Forestry, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, NACO and ADWAC through a “Letter of Agreement” signed between these institutions and FAO Gambia Office.
The AAD project`s regional priority areas includes Food security, poverty alleviation, employment and improving resilience to climate change. The project`s Country Programming Framework Outcomes aims to improved coordination mechanisms and Institutional and policy frameworks at national and local level towards sustainable and equitable Land and Forest management. To assist Local communities in the three selected landscape units to adopt and use improved sustainable land/forest management practices and technologies. Also to enhance acquiring of Knowledge and create awareness among key target audiences and stakeholders.
Implementation of Project field activities started in January 2017, and So far in general, there are good indications of progress in achieving the delivery of expected products and services towards a resounding success.
There is partnership and collaboration in complementing each other’s efforts between AAD and another FAO supported projects like Forest Farm and Facility (FFF), working in common areas of sustainable forest management. This has registered significantly achievement the development and review of Community Forest (CF) committees’ first and second generation of one and five years management matrixes by Forestry Department to support those CFs in developing their management plans.
Also complementing efforts, the project supported the review of the agriculture and Natural Resource (ANR) policy document that is crucial for the implementation of certain activities of both AAD and Community-based Sustainable Forest Management (GEF funded project) which has just started. Three regional platforms are put in place, one in each Region to help guide and follow implementation of different projects. Members of the regional platforms committed to provide technical support while NACO which is responsible for capacity development of project partners.
NACO in close collaboration with Regional field staff of Forestry Department, the project conducted baseline surveys on legal status of Community Forests and Forest Parks under Co-management in the three regions 2017 and facilitated the establishment of three regional Sustainable Land Management Forums under the Agriculture and Natural Resources and further trained hundred Forest Management Committees on Participatory Forest Management Concepts in June 2017.
The local forestry consultancy firm also conducted three regional and five districts awareness raising workshops on the Project with the aim of informing relevant stakeholders on project objectives and implementation arrangements.
NACO in close collaboration with Regional Forestry offices conducted baseline surveys on legal status of Community Forests and Forest Parks under Co-management within project sites in the three regions in 2017 and facilitated the establishment of three Regional Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Forums under the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) sub- group of the regional advisory committee.
Organised three regional and five district awareness raising meetings with the participation of Regional Technical Advisory Committee members (TACs) and District Chiefs in two separate but successive meetings in project sites from in 2017 to inform and obtain their consent as stakeholders in the implementation of planned project activities.
Not relenting, the project through Natural Resource Consulting and Training (NACO) organized five district level meetings involving Forest Management and Village Development Committees and Chief of the concerned districts with a high gender sensitivity on their roles and responsibilities in the implementation process of planned activities alongside field monitoring of activities especially by the TACs.
Village resource mapping exercise was also conducted in Kuntaur Fulla Kunda and Jahaba villages in CRR-North through Participatory Learning and Action method and the maps highlighted reduced forest resources becoming more scarce and difficult to access as farming activities encroach more and more into forest land areas.
In view of increasing public awareness and action on combating Desertification, NACO in collaboration with Forestry Department conducted community outreach activities or baseline data on legal status of Forests 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 and to ascertain the legal status.
The project through Forestry Department provided certain number of nursery inputs such as wheel barrows, poly bags etc. to the village-based nursery production beneficiaries to facilitate the up scaling of production. Successful tree nursery beds were established in different intervention sites for onwards distributions for plantation at local implementation sites.
The communities of CRR-N have had their five year management plans and first generation of five year matrixes developed through FFF support in collaboration with the Department of Forestry. In respect of concluding Forest Management agreements for Community-Based Sustainable Land Management, the Department of Forestry processed the legal ownership transfer to concerned communities was held in May 2017;
For the promotion of environmental awareness through project intervention, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) successfully selected schools for the project intervention and identified woodlot and school tree nursery sites for reforestation and agro-forestry programmes implemented in selected schools.
In addition to school arts Competitions, MoBSE led the implementation of appropriate techniques and established training on farmer field school concept on selected sites. Planning meeting organised on the SES curriculum as supplementary modules and key learning areas for inclusion to be introduced in the Lower Basic School curriculum. Three school tree nurseries were established one in each region and are securely fenced and contracts were awarded for construction of Stoves with Chimneys in Ten schools identified in each of the three regions to improve the cooking environment and cut down the usage of firewood.
Priority needs were accorded to supporting the local communities to develop Forest Management Agreements alongside Forest Management Planning as legal basis for the local communities to embark on any forest management interventions including the development of small and medium forest- based enterprises. People residing within the project sites who share their experience with this reporter hailed the project for its resounding success and urged the project team to continuously engage them on activities from implementation, monitoring and learning of best practices.
One of the activities implemented by the Agency for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC) is the production of metallic cooking stoves by local artisans trained by them. The artisans were contracted for the production the Nofflye Jeeg prototype widely accepted by the beneficiaries during the implementation of the sustainable agricultural and environmental governance project implemented by ADWAC in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. The artisans were monitored closely during the production phase by ADWAC to ensure that the specifications in the contract documents are strictly followed in order to produce high quality improved stoves.
The overall project target assigned to ADWAC is 720 stoves for the entire 42 months of the project period and target for the first phase is 180 stoves. The production of the first year target has been successfully completed and distributed. Improved stoves with chimneys (burnt bricks) and mud constructed are used in selected schools. The stoves are distributed to the project implementation regions of North Bank, Central River and Upper River Regions of the northern bank of river Gambia targeting 28 communities.