Gambia’s Minister of Forestry, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Lamin B. Dibba, Saturday lead the planting of over 1, 500 different species of trees at the Mandinaba Community Forest as part of their annual tree planting exercise.
The exercise was in attempt to restore forest cover and provide a source of income and employment for the community. The Community Forest was reserved by elders with a potential to attract tourists and economic gain through the sale of trees.
Young people and the community’s development committee now intends to transform the forest park into an Eco Tourism center that can contribute to youth employment that would enable young people to stay and work in their community. This is expected to reduce the rate of illegal migration as many of Mandinaba youth have left the country and ventured into migration.
“Let us protect the environment. Everyone must stand to protect this forest from tree cutting. Government has put in place a National Development Plan among which the environment is given utmost focus,” Minister Dibba said at the exercise.
He said it is good to see people standing up to take ownership of their communities and young people leading the process.
He said when the environment is destroyed, it will affect food sustainability and the air “we” breed will be decreased, saying tree planting will help in climate mitigation. “In fact, it was earlier feared that there will be less rainfall this year. All that is because the decrease in the number of trees.”
According to Mr. Dibba, trees are important determinants of rainfall and their limited availability can lead to low agricultural production.
He said Gambia government has recently secured a 21 million Dollar funding from Green Climate Fund (GCF) to replace over 10, 000 hectares damaged forests and 3, 000 hectares of damaged farmlands the in Upper, Lower and Central River regions.
“Forests are important and we must all stand strong to protect them from damage. We are preparing a new environmental protection project with the World bank that will involve The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau to restore damages in border areas including Mandinaba.”
He said this is because they have come to realise that there serious forest depleting activities currently happening in the border areas of these three countries. “Gambia government is aware of all these activities and is working hard to address them,” he said.
Lamin Darboe, executive director of the National Youth Council and a native of Mandinaba appealed to young people to be protectors of the forest from any tree cutting or fire. He appealed to Minister Dibba and the government to support the initiative in ensuring that the community gets what they intended from it.
Representing the Alkalo of the Mandinaba, Omar Colley praised the young people and women for the worthy initiative, assuring them of the elders support at all time.
Yusupha Bojang, chairman of the youth task force committee and Alhagie Jassey, youth representative in the Mandinaba Village Development Committee both commended young people for their massive turnout to the activity.
They said their target is to transform the forest park into an Ecotourism centre and later include a lodge there that can bring income for the community and create employment for young people.
They appealed to the government and other agencies to support their cause to encourage young people to take up their own development to create jobs and opportunities.
Ousman Manneh a young agricultural entrepreneur and Kaddiba Kujabie, women leader also appealed to the young people to continue participating in community development for their benefit of generations yet to be born.