The Association of the Wood Re-exporters and Forest Users in The Gambia over the weekend jointly convened a meeting of stakeholders, following government's decision to lift ban on the wood re-export trade in the country.
The day long convergence was attended by representatives of relevant government institutions like The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Ministry of Forestry, Department of Forestry; as well as loaders and truck drivers among others, aimed at putting up concrete strategy to ensure that the laid down conditions for re-opening of the trade are observed and abided by accordingly.
In his remark, Lamin Kinteh, the secretary general of the association, thanked all those present for responding to their call. He explained that the meeting was necessitated by government's directive to lift ban on wood re-export trade and its extension up to the 31st of December 2012.
"We deem it necessary to call on all of you the stakeholders todiscuss, share ideas during this very important meeting with the aim to eliminate all the malpractices that are happening within the re-export trade industry" he stated. Part of the objectives of the meeting, he added, is for stakeholders to come up with relevant ideas for the best interest of protecting their forest.
Kinteh also highlighted the potential opportunities that the outcome of the meeting could produce. "It will be a very good opportunity for us stakeholders to look into the wood re-export trade and come up with recommendation that will serve as guiding principle in our day-to-day operation within the wood re-export trade," he said. He therefore called on the stakeholders to contribute their quota to the formulation of the recommendation and best strategy for the best interest of the Gambian people.
For his part, Lamin Barrow, the chairman of the Association hailed the stakeholders for their turnout. He described the meeting as very important as it will serve as a guiding principle in the operation of permit holders within the trade industry. He then advised the licence holders also to be honest to their foreign counterparts, and not to allow them to use the forest. He pointed out that linkage between dealers and the foreigners to negotiate for buying timbers must be safeguarded.
The chairman went on to urge the importers, transporters and exporters to be honest to one another for the best interest of the timber industry. He finally used the opportunity to thank President Jammeh for lifting the ban and assured that the recommendations from the meeting will be utilised for the best interest of the country.
Lamin Jawara, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment indicated the importance of the forum. This, according to him, will serve as an addendum to converse and preserve the forest, which, he said, the timber dealers must be aware of. "Forests are protected due to so many developmental issues related to forest covers," he said, while outlining the negative impact of its misuse.
Jawara also buttressed on the important role that each timber dealer could play to protect the forest and challenged them not to allow certain unscrupulous people to hold the forest into ransom just for their own benefit. The DPS finally called for collective responsibility in safeguarding the forest cover for the best interest of the future generation.