The Gambia has just celebrated the National Anti-bush fire campaign the government has set aside to be observed annually on 10 January, to create and advocate for pro-active participation of the population in the prevention and management of bushfires.
The occasion, spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Forestry and Wildlife to commemorate the National Anti-Bushfire Day, also provides opportunities for reflection on the causes and impacts of bushfires on the socio-economic development of the country.
We must pay heed to the campaign against bushfire as its havoc on the environment and the economy of a nation is always dire.
Bushfire poses a threat to the attainment of sustainable natural resource management.
It destroys grazing land for livestock and small ruminant and leads to their starvation and health hazard.This does not only cause loss of lives of livestock and small ruminants, it also creates hardship for the society, as income generated from livestock is also reduced.
It has been stated that The Gambia suffers greatly from the effects of bushfires that virtually burn the whole vegetation cover on an annual basis.
This is noted as leading to the reduction of fodder materials for animals, loss of livestock, flora and fauna including their habitats, as well as agricultural produce. In addition, extreme cases of bushfires have led to the destruction of many settlements.
The environment ministry has, therefore, been making some strides to reach out to the people across the country to sensitise them on the impacts of bushfire and the preservation of the country's flora and fauna.
The Department of Forestry has further shown commitment to the preservation and conservation of natural forest cover by embarking on upcountry anti-bushfire campaign.
In Kerewan, the department had held a daylong sensitisation forum on the roles and responsibilities of local authorities on the prevention of bushfire.
The sensitisation forum was part of efforts aimed at decentralising the National Anti-Bush Fire Day.
This is a laudable endeavour, which needs to go on unabated to keep a close watch at any act of defaulting.
"The frequency and intensity of bushfires could be reduced by including fire management in broader landscape management strategies," the environment minister has said.
"Also, it can be reduced through more integrating approaches which include not only fire suppression, but also fire prevention, early warning and preparedness."
The Department of Forestry should, therefore, continue to put in place policies and strategies for better control and management of bushfires by sensitising the public on need to contribute to the management of the resources.
We are, therefore, commending the department and the ministry for having designed The Gambia forest communication concept to bring the forestry services closer to the people through the sharing of relevant and timely information.
Bushfire is, indeed, worrying and devastating; we should, therefore, do all we can to stop it in our society.