ACTION AGAINST DESERTIFICATION PROJECT LAUNCHED

Abdoulie G.Dibba

The Action Against Desertification Project, in support of the implementation of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) and South-South Cooperation in ACP countries, was launched on Tuesday 24 May 2016 at Kerewan, North Bank Region of the Gambia.

In delivering his statement on behalf of the FAO Country Representative., Fernando Abaga asserted that the project they are launching aims to improve the condition and productivity of the agro-sylvo-pastoral landscapes affected by Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in three regions in The Gambia namely North Bank Region, North of Central River Region and Upper River Region.

He said in  order  to  protect  the  ecosystems  and  promote  sustainable development, various initiatives and actions  are being adopted by international community and individual affected countries with specific objectives to counteract the effects of desertification, land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change through various initiatives, including the adoption and implementation of the three Rio conventions (United Nations Conventions on Desertification, Climate Change and Biodiversity).

Mr Abaga pointed out that the objective of the  initiative is to  arrest  the  advance  of  the  Sahara desert south and north wards and to improve the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the sahelo-sahara zone being one of the most negatively affected in Africa.

As a result, he said, they are aware that the Government has since then embarked on developing strategies and implementing activities to deal with the associated challenges such as deforestation, degradation of agricultural lands (crop and rangelands) and biodiversity loss   through the participation of local communities who are equally committed, and have experience in bringing about sustainable forest and land resources management.

Such actions he went on to say, include community participation in resource  management such  as sustainable community forest  management and in  this  regard he said, 31,682 hectares are currently under communal management in all the regions of the country.

Mr Abaga said more efforts are needed in order to ensure the attainment of Gambian Forest Management Concept (GFMC) objectives which calls for 200,000 hectares to be under sustainable community management by the end of Forest Policy period (2010-2019).

Implementation of planned project activities he said, will contribute to the efforts of controlling land degradation and deforestation processes through effective participation of local beneficiaries.

Participatory approaches in the management of forest resources he said, will be the key instruments used to consolidate the existing strategies and efforts for the sustainable management and utilization of the resources.

“Food insecurity, poverty and unemployment which negatively affects the livelihoods of the rural poor communities will be addressed through enhanced farm production and productivity,  as well as through development of community-based enterprises for wood and non-wood forest products,” said Abaga.

In delivering his statement, Darrell  Sexstone, the Officer in Charge of the EU and also the EU Programme Manager for Climate Change related projects, said the European Union is co-funding the Great Green Wall project to the tune of 1.50 million euros or about 70 million Gambian dalasi and that their important partners in this project include the Government of the Republic of The Gambia, Department of Forestry, Department of Lands, the National Environment Agency, the ministries of agriculture and of basic and secondary education, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Forest and Farm Facility( FFF), Global Environment Facility (GEF), African Union Commission (AUC), Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (Comite permanent lnter-Etats de Lutte contre Ia Secheresse dans le Sahel) (CILSS), Agency for the Development of Women and Children  (ADWAC), Natural Resources Consulting – (NACO) and the KOMFFORA Climate Development Special Fund (CDSF) Project, Local Authorities and communities.

Another important partner, he said, is the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification).

Mr. Sexstone noted that the European Union is highly committed to the successful implementation of this important 41 month project whose overall objective is to contribute to: poverty alleviation, end hunger and improve resilience to climate change.

He said desertification is threatening the main productive resources in the country due to Shifting of the agro-ecological areas toward the north of River Gambia and the diminishing of the vegetative growth period to 30-40 days, Diminishing of soils permeability, Increased flooding and soil erosion and Increasing of the water evaporation capacity of barren soils(10mm/day in the warm season, i.e. more than 2,000mm per year).

The EU official said the feature of land degradation are Decrease of soil fertility, Accelerated soil erosion, Biodiversity degradation, Deforestation and Degradation of Agricultural and Pasture land.

In delivering his launch statement, Pa Ousman Jarju, Minister of  Environment,  Climate  Change, Water Wildlife and Fisheries, said the Gambia like many other Sahelian countries in the sub­ region is confronted with the familiar set of problems associated with agriculture, biodiversity loss, land degradation and out­ ward youth migration.

Mr. Jarju said on behalf of the President of the Republic of The Gambia, he wished to thank the AU and the FAO for being instrumental and supportive right from the formulation of the project and for the technical support and guidance.

In this light, Minister Jarju went on to say, the government in 2015, transferred ownership and management responsibility of community forests back to local communities in order to increase their access and guaranty tenure security and socio-economic benefits to these local communities.

Minister Jarju noted that the community forestry management programme introduced in the 1990s has been exemplary in the whole of Africa and as we speak today, more 400 communities are participating in this programme and are managing more than 31, 000 hectares of forests as community forests.

“Our today’s project entitled “Action Against Desertification” is aimed at addressing the problems of land degradation/deforestation,   improve  food   security   and ameliorate the impacts of climate change in the northern part of the country by promoting and piloting sustainable land management approaches,” said Minister Jarju.

Therefore he said, this project is timely in that Desertification, Land degradation  and  Drought  (DLDD)  are  now  more  than  ever before important global agenda items under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to which The Gambia is signatory.

“Thus this project is in line with government priorities to improve the condition and productivity of the agro-sylvo-pastoral landscapes affected by Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in the northern part of The River Gambia. The project will target three regions namely, North Bank Region, North of Central River Region and North of Upper River Region,” he concluded.

Present at the launch were the governors of the three beneficiary regions, agricultural, forest, education officials, farmers and foresters.