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UTG secures €144,000 grant for Gambia’s biodiversity

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By Olimatou Coker

The University of The Gambia has secured a grant of 144,000 euros for Gambia’s biodiversity from its Spanish partners through Salbia research project.

SALBIA is a 3-year project funded by the Spanish Government and it proposes a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach to assess the impacts of salinization on the socio-ecological system of the river Gambia.

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The project includes a combination of local The Great Institute, the University of The Gambia, WABSA and European institutions, and it has a strong capacity-building component that could serve to strengthen current environmental monitoring and conservation plans.

Dr. Mamudou Jallow, head of the biology department at the UTG, said their Spanish partners secured a grant and want to look at salt intrusion, which he said is a problem in the Gambia, but due to lack of funding, researchers cannot do it.

“So, they came up with the proposal and we all made our inputs and today we are doing the kick off meeting and launching the project,” he said.

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He said that the project is beneficial to the Gambia and has a capacity building component which is very crucial in the area of equipping the biology department of the UTG with a laboratory, something that has been a challenge for the department.

He added that the project also provides an opportunity for Gambian students to travel to Spain for an exchange visit and training workshops, and will also expose them to laboratory protocols to ensure that salinity monitoring is sustained once the project phases out.

Miguel Canedo-Arguelles, project coordinator, said salinity is caused by drought and after the research they are expected to generate new knowledge and know how salt water intrusion is going up the river annually and how it is affecting the lives of the people and communities.

He also disclosed  that they would build the capacity of UTG students and will initiate an exchange visit to Spain for knowledge to be generated for UTG students and be utilized by Gambians even after the project.

Pablo Rodriguez, a Spanish partner, said  that the goals of SALIBA project include but not limited to assessing the impact of salinity within the aquatic biodiversity of freshwater areas, assessing the impacts of salinity within riverine carbon cycles, assessing the impacts of salinity on local communities, and to develop adaptation strategies on salinity.

He added that their partners such as the UTG have been involved during the proposal stage of the project. He said the project is about to commence, a kick off meeting has been organized to allow their Gambian partners to give their input in the project.

“It is a coordinated project with three components namely biodiversity, biochemical and social dealing with its effects on the communities. We are here today to do this kick off meeting and from now on, we will be working on research for the project,” he said.

Nuria Catalan, researcher at the Environmental and Water Studies Council from Barcelona, said she has been working in diverse ecosystems, starting with the Mediterranean Sea, adding that they also have challenges in climate that is making Spanish rivers drier.

“What we try to understand in all these systems is that the carbon that arrives from catchment areas and how the process goes, is when it reaches them late. This is key for the project as we try to assess salinity trends or draw trends in aquatic ecosystems to ensure that the changes are improved,” she said.

She said one important thing for them to identify is to study sites of salinity, where they can access the different compartments that are important for carbons, stressing that they also need to identify sites where they can install censors in the long time so that communities can monitor emissions and carbon in the different compartments.

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