columnBy Abdou Rahman Sallah
Hello and a warm welcome to yet another edition of the Environment, your weekly environment column that aims to bring environmental issues to the limelight.
In our today's edition, we recognized local communities and NGOs such as World Wildlife Fund for their commitment and participation in mangrove restoration in The Gambia.
Local communities and NGO participation in environmental conservation such as mangrove restoration initiatives is key in maintaining the ecology and ecosystem to provide paradise home for both marine and terrestrials species.
The reforestation of mangrove along Bintang Bolong (estuary) was initiated by World Wide Fund for nature, which took place September, 2011 and eight communities, which has been identified to take part showed full support and participation in the activity.
The initiative attracted about eight hundred and sixty-six (866) community members, who participated in the activity and the planting program was a participatory approach to develop the skills of the communities on mangrove reforestation and for them to take ownership of the whole initiative to ensure sustainability.
The communities were selected based on the intensity of the die back, the sustainability of the site for mangrove reforestation and the level of the impact on the livelihood of the communities and more than 60 hectares of degraded mangrove forest were replanted with 204, 765 mangrove propagules (Kalagi 6ha, Sintet 10ha, Bondali Tenda 12.9ha, Kalimou 10.7ha, Bouruk 2.1ha, Bantanjang 6.9ha, Kayaborr 7.9ha and Bajiran 8.2ha).
The impact of the mangrove reforestation sub-project include restoring degraded mangrove forests along Bintang, increasing awareness, support and community participation in the protection of natural resources and minimizing soil erosion along Bintang Bolong.
The Regional Coastal and Marine Conservation for West Africa (PRCM) in 2008 approved funding for the second phase of Integrated Coastal Area and Marine Biodiversity Management (ICAM II) project.
The World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) in collaboration with Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) implemented the project. The objective of ICAMII is to conserve and sustainably manage globally significant biodiversity in coastal, marine and wetland ecosystems in The Gambia and to transfer those lessons to Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
ICAM II project implemented innovative village banking, sustainable biological gardening and erosion control programs in ecologically sensitive areas to reduce dependency on natural resource base, strengthened institutional and local capacity to manage protected areas, improve marine biodiversity management, data collection and analyzes, restored ecologically degraded ecosystems and empowered women through co-management programs.
Local communities' participation in erosion control
Increased soil erosion cause siltation of the wetland and low land zones of many protected areas and movement of people and goods within and between communities in some case becomes impossible.
The ICAM II project in 2009 started an erosion control program aimed at reducing siltation caused by runoff water in low land rice fields and mangrove areas.
Some of the ICAM II project intervention sites include Jumansar koto, Katchang, Lamin, Wellingara and Gunjur. There were several training on the construction and installation of gabions was carried out in each of the five communities.
More than 30 people have acquired skills and techniques required to construct gabions and for each of these communities an average of 16 gabions were constructed.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management staff took part in all the training programs, as a result of their participation; the park staff has constructed more than 20 gabions around Tanbi Wetland National Park.
Some of the impacts of erosion control sub-project include reduced damage to private properties as result of flooding, reduced siltation of low land and wetland zones, increased awareness, support and community participation in the protection of natural resources, built capacity within the communities to address soil erosion at community level and improved movement of goods and people.
Challenges and innovative approaches
This include household poverty (village banking system and sustainable biological gardening), over exploitation of fish species (creating local action group to protect marine resources; school and community awareness programs; support for reducing juvenile fish processing), mangrove dieback (planting of degraded areas by bringing about widespread national interest in mangrove reforestation), siltation and sedimentation of rice and mangrove ecologies (trained communities, local and national authorities, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO ) and Community Based Organization (CBO) on erosion control techniques and skills).
Conservation of threatened marine species (by implementing species management plans, standard species monitoring systems, training and capacity building for all major stakeholders) and negative perception of protected areas (co-management initiatives enabled marginalized communities to access to alternative livelihoods, participate in marine resources management).
Some of the environmental impacts includes the project established threatened marine species action plan including marine turtles and cetaceans, reforested 100ha of lost mangrove, contributing to commitment made by The Gambia under the convention on biological diversity to restore at least 10% of degraded ecosystems; the project also reduced siltation cause by runoff water in low land rice fields and mangrove areas. The erosion control program minimized impacts of ravines in seven sites covering around 4km.
It strengthen sustainable fisheries management system by way of reducing juvenile fish landing and processing by women; the felling, cutting and collection of trees, mangroves and wild fruits by communities are reduced, whiles perception and willingness to participate in protected area management is enhanced.
Protected areas are no longer consider a threat to livelihood and the identification of four more additional new protected area contributes to fulfilling Gambia's commitment under United Nation convention on biological diversity to designate 10% of its national territory as protected areas.
Women Empowerment: under this initiative is manifested through 100% representation of women in village banking, 90% in gardening and equal representation and participation of women and men in mangrove planting and erosion control.
In one community, women initiate and lead erosion control programs, as a result, at the project sites, women are now vocal and active in natural resource management, as well as leading support at household level towards children education and health services.
Co-management bodies established around protected area (site management committees) and among fishing communities (sole and oyster) with good women representation fully take part in all decisions on marine resources management in Gambia.
Sustainability; project activities were designed to build capacity for self reliance and resilience and communities were to trained to mange and administer their own village banking, gardening and erosion control programs.
Local management structure refers to as committees are established in each village by women to run their own programs. Since 2009 this community driven approach succeeded to establish skill to operate and manage funds, built community cohesion, increased appreciation and active participation in natural resource management.