26 November 2012

Gambia: Stakeholders in the Wood Re-Export Trade Meet

The Association of the Wood Re-exporters and Forest users in the Gambia, in collaboration with relevant government stakeholders from GRA, Customs, Ministry of forestry, Office of the president and the President's International Award convened a day-long general meeting with the aim to put strategy in place in the elimination of the malpractices in the Gambian forest and other related issues.

According to the agenda of the meeting, stakeholders are to discuss on ways and means of eliminating all the malpractices that are existing in the trade, the issue of 'no felling of trees' in the Gambia, and all other matters related to timber trade.

In his welcoming remarks, the Secretary General of the association of wood re-exporters Kebba Kinteh, asserted that the purpose of this meeting is due to the press release from the Office of the President for the temporal lifting of the wood re-export trade until the 31st of December 2012.

He noted that there were a lot of issues relating to closure of the wood re-export trade which involved a lot of malpractices and that the association deems it very necessary to call all the stake holders to sit and discuss the malpractices and how to remedy them. He also went on to say that the stakeholders should come up with relevant ideas for the best interest of the Gambia forest.

In his speech the chairman of the association of wood re-exporters and forest users in the Gambia Lamin Barrow, commended the stakeholders for their turnout particularly from the Office of the President, Customs, GRA, Ministry of Forestry ,representative from the Forestry Department, MSC, and among other relevant institutions.

He said the purpose of this meeting was for the stakeholders to sit and look into to the issues that led to the closure of the timber trade and the opening in order to iron it out and adopt best practices that would help in the best interest of our forest and the Gambian people without any malpractices.

He noted that it would be very unfair to always be appealing to the president for more than five times on the same problems and that this meeting is very important as it would serve as a guiding principle in the operation of permit holders within the trade industry.

Mr. Barrow raised the issue of the Gambian businesspersons in the wood industry and their foreign counterparts; that Gambian wood dealers should not be moved by money to destroy their forest, and their guiding principle which is the law.

He also seized the opportunity to advise the licence holders to be honest to their foreign counterparts and tell them the truth, that is; to inform them that they are not allowed to go on the ground to negotiate for the buying of timber from the drivers.

He stated that in the forum, importers, transporters and exporters were all present and therefore urged them to be honest to each other for the best interest of the timber industry.

He concluded by thanking the president for lifting the ban for this short period of time and added that the continuity of the lifting of the wood re-export trade ban is dependent on the timber dealers. He therefore called on the stakeholders to come up with recommendations for the best interest of the Gambian people.

In his remarks, the deputy permanent secretary, ministry of forestry Lamin Jawara, went on to lament the importance of the conservation and preservation of the forest and said timber dealers need to be aware of. He said the forest is protected due to so many developmental issues related to Climate change which has a negative impact on Agriculture, health and the Environment. DPS Jawara asserted that the protection of the forest should be everybody's business and therefore challenged the wood re-exporters to see the protection of the forest cover as their responsibility.

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