By Momodou B. Dem
The Bulock Kapongha Youth Development Association planted trees in the community forest over the weekend.
The tree planting exercise meant to restore the depleting forest cover is part of the association’s drive to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Amnesty International, in a Climate Change report, observes, “Millions of people are already suffering from the catastrophic effects of extreme disasters exacerbated by climate change.”
These, according to the report, include prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa to devastating tropical storms across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Cognizant of the threat of climate change to the life and livelihood of individuals, the President of the association, Sarjo Jarju, expressed the commitment of the association to conducting such climate change mitigation initiatives.
The association, over the years, embarked on similar exercises, and President Jarju assured a continuity of the initiative: “We are not stopping. We will not stop until we see to it that this forest is thick with trees.”
The planting of trees is one initiative encouraged by climate change experts, but sustainability mechanisms largely fail due to human-induced activities.
Sarjo shared with the media a sustainability mechanism the association established, which is a task force dubbed Bulock Green Initiative to – conduct routine exercises in the forest to protect the planted trees.
Bulock, like many other rural communities, feels the pinch of climate change.
Residents in the community depend mainly on the forest for survival and economic gains that activities such as charcoal production are rife in the community.
Charcoal production, experts argue, is a climate change driver and contributes to the loss of soil nutrients.
As a means to protect the environment and deter charcoal production in the community, the association secured project support for a women’s garden.
With this support, President Jarju stated, the women have a means of livelihood without further destroying the forest.
A forestry expert, Simon Sarjo applauded the initiative by the youth association as consistent with the mandate of the forestry department, and enjoined that tree planting should be everyone’s business.
In 1977, the former President of The Gambia, Sir Dawda, made a clarion call for the protection of Gambia’s flora and fauna.
The statement famously referred to as the ‘Banjul Declaration’ is a call for the need to protect the vanishing plant and animal species in The Gambia.
However, decades after the clarion call, The Gambia witnessed a surge in the loss of its indigenous trees and animal species.
Mr. Simon believes such initiatives will help restore the lost indigenous trees of the country, as well as mitigate the impact of climate change.
The Gambia Government in July 2022 in a statement imposed a ban on all exports of timber. The move comes amid the destruction of Gambia’s forest cover: “With these new rules, Gambia Ports Authority is hereby instructed to refuse loading for timber logs unto any vessel for export.”
In 2012, the West African rosewood tree was declared nearly extinct in the Gambia. However, the country remains one of the largest exporters of the species to China, along with Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.
It is argued that much of the rosewood export through the Gambia hails from the Senegalese region of Casamance.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, The Gambia has exported an estimated 1.6 million rosewood trees since 2012.
Figures from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, timber and wood products are an important export commodity for The Gambia, with exports valued at roughly $16.7 million in 2020.
To support initiatives to restore the lost forest cover, the CMA CGM Shipping agency partnered with the Bulock Kapongha in the tree planting exercise.
The Agency’s Managing Director, Gorel Patric Samatey says the support is part of their corporate social responsibility.
The Bulock Kapongha Youth Development Association is a community-based association operating in the Foni Brefet settlement of Bulock.
The association was established in 2014 to bring young people
together to spearhead their development and that of the community.