As part of the implementation process of the Gambia Biodiversity Management Strengthening Project (GBMISP), the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) and the PMU in collaboration with the private sector and partners on Tuesday converged on the Baobab Hotel and Resort, in Bijilo, to validate the draft document for effective biodiversity management in the country.
Among the objectives of the synergy were to increase management effective for natural resources and to implement natural resources compatible community development projects among the local communities in and around the Protected Areas (Pas), and to promote tourism in PAs to generate income for local communities among others.
According to the document, the Gambia government endorsed a policy to encourage the private sector to invest in national parks, nature reserves, forest parks and other private wildlife estates in 2009, through a cabinet paper by the then Secretary of State for Forestry and Environment, on the involvement of the private sector in the management of Protected Areas (PAs) and natural resources.
The document also stipulated the role and obligations of the DPWM, partners, private sector and communities as well as the government, which shall grant private sector and civil society exclusive rights of running the wildlife reserve and to collect visitors' fees for the entire area, among a host of obligations.
In his official opening statement on behalf of the director of Parks and Wildlife, Modou Lamin Gassama disclosed that The Gambia conserves its biodiversity through the protected area systems in the form of national parks, nature reserves and other sanctuaries which cover 4.9% of the country's land mass. "However, these are insufficient for the conservation of wildlife. The surrounding community and private lands provide disposal areas and we ask the private sector to consider establishing game ranches or protected wildlife reserves," he stated.
Gassama noted that the profitability of the game ranching has been demonstrated in the environment with species of wildlife and similar to those which used to be found in The Gambia. He stated that higher yield of cattle per unit area in the semi-arid areas is demonstrated from the fact that the wild animals are better adapted to harsh environment; more resistant to disease than livestock among others and can utilise natural resources more effectively than the domestic animals. "Other qualities of wild animals that rationalise their management under ranching and farming are valuable trophies and photographic tourism and export of trophies," he added.
He further stated that it is in this view of the comparative advantages of wildlife species over their domestic counterparts that the Gambia government through the DPWM attempts to rsecommend ranching as a means of promoting the exploitation of wild animal species for food and photographic tourism as well as export of trophies.
Gassama used the opportunity to inform the gathering that the Gambia government has developed a policy to enable private sector involvement in natural resources management. He added that as the initiative is developing, there is a genuine need to develop and validate a national set of guidelines for the smooth involvement of the private sector in the national management of biodiversity.
He continued: "To implement this scheme, specific activities will be planned and these will include studies to develop relevant policy and legal frameworks to guide the process. Biodiversity and institutional strengthening project has already started that the ball rolling by funding the private sector involvement in natural resource management."
He stressed that there is no need to reorient the staff of DPWM and Department of Forestry on how to implement these policies and legal frameworks. "The development of concerted guidelines for involvement of private sectors in natural resource management particularly on biodiversity conservation will contribute to the growth of tourism sector which is in support of government's policy of promoting the tourism industry that has been elevated to the second position in the country's economy after agriculture," he outlined.
He informed participants that the purpose of the guidelines is to provide a comprehensive and objective framework for private sector involvementin natural resource management with a view to determine the nature of partnership arrangement among host of others.