FFF plays pivotal role in community forest management -Says PS Sowe

The permanent secretary at Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Forestry and Wildlife, Ousman Sowe, has said that the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), an FAO-funded project, plays a pivotal role in community forest management transfer, thus expressing appreciation on behalf of his ministry to FFF.

PS Sowe was speaking during a countrywide tour and handing over ceremonies of community forests, which concluded on Saturday.

He applauded the partnership between the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) and his ministry in promoting sustainable forest and farm management.

He explained that FFF is geared towards supporting local, national, regional and international organisations and platforms for effective engagement in policies and investments that meet the needs of local people.

In a Daily Observer interview, Kanimang Camara, the national facilitator of FFF, highlighted the significance of the Environment minister’s tour to hand over forest ownership from government to local community, noting that community forestry is a move intended to empower local population so that they can manage those resources, protect them for today and future generations, alongside getting economic benefits from forest management.

The Environment ministry with support from FAO-FFF project was able to hand over 78 community forests with an estimated total area of 5,335 hectares to local communities in five administrative regions of the country.

Camara further informed that FFF is a programme funded through FAO by International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED). This facility was launched in The Gambia in 2013 and it follows the National Programme for Forest Facility.

He explained that this facility has three pillars that they are working on: to strengthen government’s cross-sectoral coordination on natural resource management, to set up producer group to access markets and also to be involved in policy dialogue, linking local voices to national arenas and of course global arenas so that the voice of the producers both forest and farm can be heard.

Recently, he disclosed, FFF supported the National Farmers’ Platform to conduct the 2nd National Conference of the Gambian farmers. This, he said is a manifestation of FAO-FFF’s will to support farmers and raise their voices to be heard.

“This is contributing to achieving the national policy objectives of transferring 200,000 hectares to the local population by 2019. We are also empowering the local communities to extract economic benefits sustainably from those forest areas and we have seen some of those successful communities during the tour,” Camara remarked.

According to him, the Community Forest Management programjme has increased social capital at village and community levels and this is in line with FAO strategy objectives by supporting government and other stakeholders so that they can have sustainable agricultural production, which will improve livelihood and increase economic gains of local communities.

The FFF national facilitator promised that his facility would continue to support communities up to 2017, specifically focusing on capacity building. “Because now they have their forests legally, we will continue to build their capacity depending on the needs emerging from those communities. We will continue to support them in terms of marketing so that they will have income from their activities”.

Camara further informed that FAO is planning two projects and hopefully one of those projects will commence this year and it is called ‘The Green Green World project for Sahel and Sahara initiative’. This desertification project is going to focus on three regions of The Gambia to consolidate the achievements of the Forestry Department and FFF so that the momentum will continue.

“The project is going for 41 months and hopefully by 2016 there is another GEF project coming as well, and it has a bigger component which will focus on four regions of the Gambia: North Bank, Central River, Upper River and the Lower River Regions,” he further revealed.

The national facilitator went on: “Now you have your forest legally, I urge you to develop your five-year management plans, which is the key for sustainability, and also to be very transparent in terms of economic gains from the forest; continue to conduct village accounting annually, in which the entire village will be called, to give update of how much is invested in forest and community development so that the motivation and willingess of the people will not be discouraged.”