By: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
The Executive Director of the National Environment Agency and GEF Operational Focal Point of the Gambia has revealed that the project entitled: Land/Seascape planning and restoration to improve ecosystem services, and livelihoods, expand and effectively manage protected areas in The Gambia, will create an enabling environment for The Gambia in building national capacity to lead the reform of land use and marine spatial planning policies and to implement land/seascape level management that conserves ecosystem services in productive and protected land/seascapes.
Momodou Jama Suwareh recently made this revelation at a local hotel during the official opening ceremony of a two day national validation Workshop of the project document, as the country programmed its GEF-6 STAR allocation on an integrated project covering mainly climate change, land degradation and biodiversity. He posited that the project comes at a time when the Gambia is faced with serious threats of land degradation and biodiversity loss.
“The Gambia’s rural development and poverty reduction strategies emphasize the need to reverse stagnating agro-sylvo-pastoral productivity while safeguarding its rich natural resource base and unique biodiversity assets”, he narrated but however, efforts toward these goals are being seriously hampered by the degradation of land and seascape resources, as well as a decline in the ability for land and seascapes to provide the environmental services to support productive socio-economic systems.
Across many areas of The Gambia, he said the degradation of land and seascapes is occurring in advanced stages and their root causes include inappropriate land use, increased competition over land, unsustainable agricultural practices, overgrazing, and deforestation. He however warned that while efforts have been made at different levels to address some of these threats to the sustainable use and management of land and seascape resources, success still remains an outstanding challenge.
NEA boss however lamented that there are some key barriers to achieving meaningful progress in the sustainable management of land and seascapes in the Gambia that includes inadequate land use, land right policies and lack of institutional capacity for land use planning, absence of planning processes and local capacities and support to enable integrated application of sustainable land management measures.
The barriers also include the lack of experience and models for integrated land use planning and management that supports sustainable land management practices, reduces negative impacts on key biodiversity habitat from adjacent productive landscapes and inadequate protection of marine and coastal ecosystems and lack of experience and capacity for marine protected area management.
Director Suwareh perceived that this project will contribute to the removal of barriers to sustainable land management, biodiversity management and integrated natural resources management in the Gambia by improving planning and enforcement systems to identify and address causes of land degradation and biodiversity loss; Developing an enabling framework for the implementation of sustainable land management practices across landscapes; Supporting the implementation of integrated land use plans and strengthening of protected area management to achieve sustainable land management and biodiversity objectives; Expanding protected areas to encompass unmanaged ecologically important areas of The Gambia.
“On the ground, these efforts will amount to significant transformations in terms of area under sustainable land management and integrated natural resources management, as well as outcomes on the social and economic wellbeing of local populations. Examples of such transformations shall include an increase in the protected areas coverage in the Kuntaur Local Government Areas with 10,000 ha; increase in ecological connectivity covering 100,908 ha between and within different priority biodiversity habitats; the creation of four Indigenous Community Conserved Areas covering 10,000 ha; and the creation of two new Marine Protected Areas covering 18,000 ha.”
Buttressing the importance of this project, the project consultant from UN Environment posited that this national stakeholder conclave is expected to come up with a final project proposal that is representative and addresses key challenges in land-use and natural resource management in the Kuntaur Local Government Areas, CRR, where the project is going to be implemented.
Adamou Bouhari, UN Environment Task Manager for Biodiversity and Land Degradation challenged the participants to make maximum utilization of their technical expertise which he said is highly solicited for the incorporation of key issues relevant to addressing the policy agenda as stated in the National Development Plan and sectoral policies and strategies.
We are also soliciting the wise input of thoughts from the local representatives and women groups, to ensure that your voices are heard and your needs addressed by the project, Bouhari reiterated whilst looking forward to have more fruitful occasions like this, to push the national and global agenda on sustainable development.