A ceremony to launch the Biodiversity Action Journalists Gambia (BAJ Gambia) was held on Monday, 11th February 2013, at the TANGO conference hall in Fajara.
The BAJ -The Gambia is an environmental and natural resources youth led organization established in December, 2010 with technical assistance from the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM).
Mr. Momodou Edi Njie, Social Secretary of BAJ-Gambia, in his welcoming remark, said noted that the environmental reporters in the country have seen the need to come together to form a common front to increase public awareness on the environment. He said given the fact that the country's natural resources have unprecedentedly been dwindling due to anthropogenic activities such as bush fire, illegal logging, bad farming methods, over fishing exploitation and poaching among others, they found it urgent and timely to set up such an organization to sensitize the public on the issue with a view to reversing this destructive trend.
Mr. Abdou Rahman Sallah, Coordinator of BAJ-Gambia, expressed his pleasure to stand before the gathering to give a statement on behalf of Biodiversity Action Journalist-Gambia. He said the organization was given technical assistance by the Department of Park and Wildlife Management and which has even funded the launching event.
Mr. Sallah gave the genesis of BAJ- The Gambia. He said the objectives amongst others include public awareness on the environmental thematic areas in a bid to encourage local community participation in protecting and conserving the country's biological and natural resources for prosperity.
He said the organization has a membership of over 100 volunteers across the country and that plans are in place to form regional and district committees to be headed by regional focal points across the regions and municipalities.
"Since its registration as an organization, BAJ Gambia has participated in many activities nationally, regionally and internationally, thanks to our good partners who have been supporting us since day one. During the general discussions, our participations in all the events will be highlighted in the subsequent speakers", said the Coordinator..
He said BAJ-Gambia has five strategic objectives such as capacity building, campaign, networking, shared learning and Fund raising for sustainability.
"I cannot conclude my speech without recognizing and mentioning the efforts of certain individuals who has contributed immensely towards success of BAJ namely Mr. Gibril Barry MOBSE, Mr. Abdoulie Sawo & Mr. Kawsu Jammeh DPWM, Mr. Ousman Drammeh Baa-Nafa and Mr. Alpha Omar Jallow former director of DPWM for their technical support and guidance, WE SAY A BIG THANK YOU", he said.
He conclude by also thanking the government of the Gambia through MOFEN for creating the enable environment, DPWMJGMBISP & staff of DPWM.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Parks & Wildlife Management (MDEPW), Mr. Bubacar Jallow, Principal Climate Change Officer, expressed profound appreciation to the Gambia Biodiversity and Institutional Strengthening Project (GBMISP) under Parks and Wildlife for funding the program which enables them to witness the launching of BAJ-The Gambia.
He said to put this launching into context, he would wish to emphasize the important roles of the private NGOs, CSOs and Community Based Organization in the protection and conservation of the biological and natural resources for prosperity.
"The Gambia's biodiversity resource is dwindling unprecedentedly. Illegal logging through the use of chain saws, fragmentation through unplanned settlements and inadequate forest parks designation are some of the caues. Furthermore, the continual scramble for land through", said Mr. Jallow.
He also noted the itinerant farming methods, poor agricultural methods leading to erosion of fertile soil and other sediment into water catchments and other wetlands including rice growing fields are also issues of great concern in the management of the Gambia's Biodiversity.
The Climate Change Officer said "there is an absolute need for collective efforts to renew our commitment the conservation of the planetary resources on which we depend on to meet basic needs and services. Today's launching will reflect our minds on the importance of conservation and preservation of our remaining flora and fauna as stated in the 1977 Banjul declaration and PAGE."
To achieve this, he said, there is a need for collective and concerted efforts and the involvement and participation of the CSOs and NGOs operating in the area of environmental protection/management to complement government efforts in meeting the MDGs and Vision 2020.
Mr. Jallow said the Government of the Gambia is committed to the conservation and restoration of natural habitats and their biodiversity and to provide direct benefits to local communities around protected areas, adding that this will be achieved through enhanced natural resource management, good governance and management practices and ecotourism.
He said The Gambia has already undertaken assessment of the country's natural and biological resources to gather and analyze biological and socio-economic data to provide basis for defining appropriate national strategies and action plans related to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
Other speakers also took the floor.