By Sailu Bah
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Tuesday, 2nd December 2014, at the Paradise Suites Hotel commenced a 3 day National workshop for stakeholders on Community Forest and Food Nutrition.
The workshop was graced by farmers’ representatives, regional governors, district chiefs, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Forestry, Office of the President, National Assembly members, National Youth Council, NGOs and media.
In her welcoming remark, Mrs. Mariatou Njie, on behalf of the FAO representative in The Gambia, said the aim of the national workshop is to reflect on the past two decades of community forestry experience and its contribution to food security and nutrition and to explore ways of strengthening it. She said the workshop is expected to recommend actions at local and national levels for the development and effective implementation of cross sectoral forestry and nutrition and food security and nutrition policies.
“This workshop comes in a timely manner. As you may be aware, the recognition of forest’ role in food security and Nutrition is increasing. The first international conference on forest for food security and nutrition held at FAO in Rome in May confirmed the multiple benefits of forests and trees for food security and Nutrition (FSN) and the inter sectoral nature of many of the challenges identified during the conference,” she said.
Mrs. Njie noted that in this light, FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO) discussed forests and the zero hunger challenge at its 22nd session in June 2014. She added that based on the recognition that enhancing food security and nutrition through sustainable forestry requires a comprehensive inter sectoral approach, Cofo recommended that FAO explores opportunities for collaboration among agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other land use sectors to promote the application of integrated approaches across the landscape to enhance food security and nutrition.
“Addressing some of the challenges in the forest sector is the key to unlocking the forests’ full contribution to sustainable livelihoods including food security and nutrition. We look forward to your wisdom and intellectual inputs during the workshop,” she urged.
Alhagie Lamin Queen Jammeh, governor of North Bank Region, for his part, described the workshop as very important as it encourages stakeholders to come on board and discuss challenges on forestry and food security and make recommendations.
He stressed the importance of involving the grassroots actors in the rural area, adding that development cannot be done on the forestry sector without bringing in the rural people.
He urged participants to contribute positively to the workshop and also disseminate the information to others who are not fortunate to be part of the workshop.
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Sambo Nget, the Director of Forestry, said the importance of the forest cannot be over emphasized. He said globally millions of people depend on forests and trees outside forests for their food security and nutrition either directly through consumption and sale of foods harvested from forests and trees and indirectly through forest related employment forest ecosystem services, and forest based biodiversity.
“With increasing population, however, the equilibrium that existed between human needs and these natural systems is becoming seriously threatened therefore starting a vicious cycle of forest destruction caused by rampant bush fires, over exploitation of forest resources and unsustainable agricultural practices,” he said.
Momodou Lamin Jaiteh, Director of Policy Analysis Unit at the President’s Office, deputizing the Secretary General and head of civil service, in his opening statement, said government is actively encouraging better management of the forest cover and that government is working closely with the people in all regions to improve forestry management through community structures and co-managements.
“This workshop should come up with a concrete action plan on what needs to be done with the recommendations implemented as expected. I also hope that your collective efforts will translate into action for the benefit of the whole country,” he concluded.
By Sailu Bah