The West African Bird Study Association (WABSA) has recently launched its newsletter. This initiative emanated from the ambition to participate actively in the sensitisation of the general public on issues pertaining to environment. In their maiden edition, an emphasis has been put on desertification, one of the growing threats to the African continent and the planet.
In the editorial, Lamin Jobaate, WABSA Executive Director, pointed out that ‘there is a general understanding that desertification problems are most severe in the semi-arid, Sudano Sahelian zone of the country which constitutes 75% of the total land area, especially in the north of the River Gambia.’
Pursuing in this alarming tone, he argued that the southern part of the country is being menaced by the advance of the desert, as so many factors continue to contribute to the deterioration of the existing ecosystem. ‘‘The growing demographic pressures, coupled with 30% drop in rainfall over the last 20 years, contributed to the extensive destruction of the forest cover’’, he noted. According to him, such a situation caused drastically the decline of the rate of production in the cash crops, horticultural crops and wildlife species.
He further commended the reaction from the general public, government departments and Non-Governmental Organisations and indicated that it has over the last years, witnessed some positive developments and challenges. As such, they must be extolled ‘for the giant strides they have taken to minimise the negative environmental impacts.’ He then added: ‘‘The Department of Forestry, the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, the National Environment Agency and the Gambia Tourism Authority have been in the forefront of the desertification control in The Gambia.’’
Taking into consideration the international environment conventions that The Gambia has ratified, he outlined government’s commitment to take the lead in the domain of conservation. Among the conventions that necessitate the political support of the government, he enumerated the United Nations Conservation on Desertification (UNCD), the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the Climate Change Convention and the Bonn Convention. In other words, The Gambia is in the right track in tackling the rising challenges and adversity faced by the environment sector.
He concluded by drawing people’s attention to the fact that the achievement of these goals depends on the full participation and support of all Gambians. ‘‘It is our duty therefore, particularly the youth, to ensure the protection and conservation of our remaining flora and fauna’’, he hinted.