The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in The Gambia has underscored the link between sustainable agricultural developments to healthy forest, arguing that the former cannot take place without the latter.
Perpetua Katepa-Kalala was speaking recently during the launch of the 2014 National Tree Planting exercise held at the Katalenge Forest Park in Kafuta, Kombo East, West Coast Region (WCR).
The exercise was spearheaded by the Department of Forestry under the Office of the President in collaboration with the Standard Chartered Bank and the five surrounding villages of the area.
"Trees are extremely significant to a sustainable development of agriculture and rural livelihood," she emphasised. "We must restore the forest to its natural environment to ensure that the natural species and livestock that were in the forest could come back. The only way to achieve this is for people to desist from setting forests on fire".
She described bushfire as one of the major ways through which forests are destroyed, warning that without trees, there will be less rainfall and that the soil will also lose its fertility.
The FAO representative advised residents in the area to desist from illegal logging, stressing that irresponsible felling down of trees is tantamount to the destruction of one's own future livelihood. "FAO mandate is to support countries to ensure food security, agriculture and rural development, but this cannot be achieved without healthy forest," she noted.
The head of Integration Distribution at Standard Chartered Bank, Ousman Njie, said his institution has over the years been collaborating with the Department of Forestry to do tree planting in various forest parks in the country. "We value giving back to the communities and this is one way of doing it," he said.
The head of Participatory Forest Management, Cherno Gaye, said the reforestation exercise will contribute to the restoration of the forest cover which was degraded as a result of bushfires and other human activities.
Other speakers included Lamin Camara of NEA and the principal forestry officer of West Coast Region (WCR), Ousainou Cham.