23 February 2006

Gambia: Conflicts Affect Forest Resources

Mr Kanimang Camara, Director of the National Consultancy of Foresty Extension Service, a local NGO concerned with forestry issues, said long-standing and unsolved conflicts often led to the illegal exploitation and general degradation of the environment.

According to him, the nationwide implementation of the community forestry programme could only be possible if the Department of Forestry acquired the skills of mediating and negotiating between various conflicting stakeholders in forestry management.

In an interview with the Daily Observer at a week-long training workshop on national resources conflict management at the Pakalinding Lodge in the Lower River Division(LRD), Mr Camara said the training workshop, which was the first of its kind in the national resources sector, was designed for the middle cadre management of the Department of Forestry to enhance their capacities in dealing with the increasing incidents of conflicts over forest resources.

He pointed out that the training was organised by the Department of Forestry in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the German Technical Agency, explaining that resources were provided by the Department of Forestry and the National Consultancy of Foresty Extension, while the FAO provided a conflict resolution expert to coordinate the training.

Mr Camara added that the objectives of forestry communications were to build confidence and trust among the public, that foresters were stewards of forests whose role was to make it possible for forests to sustainably fulfil a range of economic, social and environment functions.

"Successful communication can greatly facilitate forest management by reducing conflicts," he said, adding that "it also promotes the use of forest products and services".

It could be recalled that a conflict mediation team under the auspices of the Department of Foresty and FAO, as well as the Central River Division Forestry Project (CRDFP) successfully negotiated a peace accord between Kayai and Saruja in the Central River Division over the ownership of the disputed Kajai Island.

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