Welcome to this week's Edition of the Environment Column and in this Edition, we will bring you the Forest Trade Fair which took place from January 4th to 6th 2020.
The exhibition was organized to showcase and demonstrate forest products and to provide market opportunities for stakeholders in the Forest sector. The Trade Fair which was opened to the public was attended by members of community forest associations and the press.
The Trade Fair showcased sophisticated forest products produced locally by community forest organizations and other stakeholders engaged in forestry such as furniture and honey and other products, to mitigate and minimize against forest and environmental degradation.
This was the second forest Trade Fair to showcase forest products in the country and the Department of Forestry in collaboration with FAO and others, were able to come together to hold the event in order to curb forest degradation and inculcate community forestry participation in order to harness the positive use of forest products; that the event will assist in the inculcation of eco-friendly systems on people without causing harm to the country's forest cover.
During the opening ceremony of the Forest Trade Fair, the Director of Forestry Muhammed Jaiteh indicated that over 40,000 of hectares of forest was handed to communities; that the Marketing and Analysis section of the department worked with those communities who are willing to manage and take ownership of their community forests and agreed on a framework with them to plant trees and make their community forest a product-based enterprise. Jaiteh said ownership of community forests consists of a preliminary planning phase followed by four phases that guides entrepreneurs through a simple and clear participatory process to plan and develop their enterprises.
Hatab Camara, MA&D Officer at the Department who also coordinated the Fair harped on its importance in helping communities to be aware of environmentally friendly practices of maintaining the country's forest cover.
Camara said the Department of Forestry has trained 74 villagers on MA&D who were able to establish 96 enterprise development plans out of which 64 are presently running; that the entrepreneurs will follow the preliminary planning process through a sequence of systematic steps to ensure that critical elements are included in order to minimize risks linked to establishing their enterprises.
During the trade fair, different forest products made in the form of soap, juices and furniture were exhibited for people to see and buy.
The Director of Forestry Muhammed Jaiteh also indicated that forest resources constitute a significant proportion of the country's national wealth under current societal economic conditions; that a significant proportion of the country's population depend largely on forest resources for their livelihoods; that the sub-sector contributes to the economy through the management of eco-tourism, timber, fruits and nuts, medicinal plants and the provision of fuel wood and charcoal, which are the main sources of domestic energy.
Jaiteh said Community forestry has reached a stage in the country where the utilization and marketing of forest products has become important not only for the benefit of the communities, but for the sustainability of forest management itself.
Ma fugi Jammeh from Foni Bulanjor who participated at the Trade Fair exhibited seats, tables and chairs made from forest products such as bamboo and rhum palm. Jammeh said he trains people who want to utilize and make the trade of making tables and chairs from forest products as a profession.
Another person who spoke at the Trade Fair was Mammodou Edrisa Njie, Executive Director of Global Youth Innovative Network (GYIN) Gambia. Njie deliberated on the significance of the Trade Fair for communities looking at the participation of women and men this year.