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By Mohamadou Musa Njie (Papa)
Secretary General, People’s Progressive Party
It is now mid-august, and The Gambia is currently experiencing irregular rains. These irregular rains patterns are somehow linked to the phenomenon of climate change which has been adversely affecting The Gambia and other countries within the Sahel region. Needless to say that the prognosis is bleak with crops wilting, planted seed not germinating in some regions, livestock on the l loose, scavenging for dwindling grazing land and pasture including foraging the few planted fields.
Even if the rains were to start in earnest, it is obvious that most farmers would not have the resources to replant their farms or reap a bumper harvest as the remaining rains might prove insufficient to attain this goal. The situation is likely to be worsened by the likelihood of the hungry season setting in earlier than usual, as farmers’ food stock and reserves would have diminished before the new harvest; that is if there is any harvest at all.
On livestock, the extensive method of rearing is not longer possible due to limited land resources. It is time to introduce modern systems of livestock production to ensure a reliable Livestock Value Chain and a sustainable management of our lands to avoid potential conflict between farmers and herders in The Gambia At a macro level, the poor groundnut harvest would likely impact food security and foreign currency earnings negatively. In a nutshell, if the trend continues, the prospect of protracted drought and food insecurity cannot be ruled out. There is therefore an urgent need for the Government to step up to the plate by acting now to avert the advent of such a bleak situation and guarantee the food security of our populations.
Now, is the time to diversify our agricultural practices by providing targeted scholarships for youth, who will be trained in appropriate and improved agricultural production systems (farms mechanizations and repairs, irrigations, environmental, production, agronomy, etc). It is about time we properly harness our water resources to boost year round agricultural production through irrigation
It is not rocket science that the availability of rainfall is highly attributed to the existence of trees and we are all aware of the fast pace of the depletion of our forest cover. It is however very unfortunate to note that the government is not taking appropriate action to stem this wanton destruction of our limited forest cover. The Nyambi forest near Brikama is no more. Parts of the Salaji Forest has been de-reserved and allocated for institutional purposes. We find such acts as both acceptable and scandalous and need to be halted. Matters are made worst as most of the other forest covers are either been logged for timber or scavenged for firewood.
The Ministry of Forestry and the National environment Agency must step up and advice the executive appropriately. There is a need to formulate forestry policies that would ensure that every rural community establishes and manages woodlots to support the regeneration of our forest and provide enough precipitation needed for rainfall. These forests protection and environmental policies must be supported by the appropriate political, executive, legislative and national will to protect and restore our forest covers, accompanied with strong penalties for encroachers and a vigorous public education campaign to sensitize our populations on the importance of protecting our forest covers.
In concluding, Let us take this opportunity to remind ourselves of the 1997 Banjul Declaration of protecting our rich and diverse Fauna and Flora.
“It is a sobering reflection that in a relatively short period of our history most of our larger wildlife species have disappeared together with much of the original forest cover. The survival of the wildlife still remaining with us and the setting aside of protected natural habitats for them is the concern of all of us It would be tragic if this priceless natural heritage, the product of millions of years of evolution, should be further endangered or lost for want of proper concern. This concern is a duty we owe to ourselves, to our great African heritage and to the world Thus I solemnly declare that my Government pledges its untiring efforts to conserve for now and posterity as wide a spectrum as possible of our remaining fauna and flora.”