The Department of Forestry and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), recently conducted a training for 10 government personnel on the use of an innovative tool to effectively and efficiently assess and monitor the country's land cover and land use.
The five-day training in Banjul on biophysical baseline assessment using the Collect Earth Tool occurred on 10 to 14 April 2017. The training was also organised under the auspices of the project "Action Against Desertification" (AAD) project funded by the EU and ACP Secretariat.
The capacity development exercise will enable the Country Team to produce a baseline report that will highlight the status of dry lands in the country and help to identify spots which require restoration.
According to a press release sent to this medium, the baseline will also serve as a basis for evidence-based decision making and for monitoring the impacts of efforts to restore degraded lands and to improve ecosystems and communities resilience in dry lands.
Participants of the workshop were drawn from various institutions, including the Planning Service Unit, the Department of Forestry, the Department of Land and surveys, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and the National Environment Agency.
The intervention is congruent with FAO's Mandate and Country Programming Framework (2016-2017) and other national, regional and international development blueprints. In The Gambia, the underlying driver for degradation of dry land forests is the increasing population pressure and the resulting direct causes which include unsustainable and uncontrolled resource extraction and Forest fires, which was caused by underlying drivers like increasing population pressure amongst others.
Patrick Bahal'okwibale, FAO's Associate Professional officer for climate change adaptation and mitigation in dry lands and lead facilitator of the workshop, explained that the lack of quantitative information on status and trends of environmental and land degradation remains a huge obstacle in catalyzing appropriate interventions and practices to combat desertification and restore degraded lands in The Gambia's dry lands.
Mr. Bahal'okwibale noted that the training will strengthen ongoing efforts to effectively address the menace of degradation of dry land forests in the country.
He said: "The Collect Earth tool enables the trainees to assess and monitor the land cover and land use through the visualization of very high resolution images. The least that can be said is that it enables the user to even count the number of trees in a given area. The training will thus enable the country team to produce a baseline report that will highlight the status of dry lands in the country. The baseline will also serve as a basis for monitoring the impact of efforts to restore degraded lands and to improve ecosystems and communities' resilience in dry lands".
Malang Jatta, National Focal Point for the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGWSSI) lamented that deforestation and land degradation are major environmental issues faced by The Gambia, noting that nearly 70% of the country's forest cover of 423,000 hectares (about 37% of the total land area) is degraded (National Forestry Assessment 2010).