The week-long sensitisation of the people of West Coast Region on the dangers of bushfire, organised by the Forestry department, in collaboration with the Kamforra Association, The Gambia Fire and Rescue Servce and the St Joseph’s Farm in Bwiam, on Wednesday came to an end after the campaign delegation visited the villages of Nyofelleh and Bato-Kunku in Kombo South District, West Coast Region.
In his remarks, Saikou Janko, the president of Kamffora, noted that at this time of the year the grasses are dry and that the Hamattan wind prevails. As such, they are campaigning to create awareness among the people about the consequences of bush burning, which he noted has a lot of negative effects on the human health; that when there is fire outbreak millions of money and valuable properties are perished.
He reminded that bushfire destroys the forest, which is very important to human beings “as the trees depend on us and vice versa,” he pointed out and added: “the importance of trees to man cannot be over emphasised. Let us make sure that we live in a healthy environment and preserve our trees and avoid fires”.
The chief of Foni Bondali, Seyfo Bakary Demba Badjie cautioned the villages to be proactive in ensuring that bushfire is prevented since it is a collective responsibility to maintain and protect our forest. “Prevention is better than cure. We want to go forward; that is why we are on this sensitisation campaign. Let us have fire belts so that when there is fire outbreak, we will be protected and not much will be destroyed,” he stated.
Samba Jarju, the assistant divisional fire officer, outlined the roles of the Fire and Rescue Service and went on to urge youth’s to contribute to building fire belts and keeping the environment clean. This, he noted can be achieved avoiding dry grasses being littered on ground, which can catch fire easily. He added that the streets should be expanded to enable fire ambulance to pass freely.
For his part, Alhagie Fadinding Bojang, the Alkalo, revealed that they had kept a forest for the past 15 years but all have vanished recently. He also complained that some people wait till late hours to cut the trees in the forest, and that some take it home to burn them into charcoal. “All the neighbouring villages benefit from the forest. The little left should be preserved as we have lost almost everything,” he lamented.
After sensitising the people of Nyofelleh, the delegation also made a similar one at Bato-Kunku. Welcoming the delegates, the chief of Kombo South, Ajay Janneh, commended them for the positive step that they took in sensitising the people of Kombo South. Addressing the people, Alhaji Lamin Sanneh, the governor of West Coast Region, thanked the director of Forestry and his team for the efforts that they are making to ensure that Kombo South forests are well protected.
He stressed that the bushfire campaign was timely, and that fire is something very powerful and dangerous. He noted that the Forestry department cannot do it alone; that all hands should be on deck for the reforestation of the forests. He also urged the people to engage in reforestation as, he noted, in line with His Excellency President Jammeh’s call for every Gambian to at least plant a tree.
Sanneh expressed similar sentiments regarding the way and manner in which our forest is being misused in the country, particularly in West Coast Region. He called on the people to take ownership of the forest for the betterment of their village, adding that the Village Development Committee (VDC) should be very active in order to complement government’s efforts in terms of development. “Protecting our forest is the best way of improving our survival. Safeguarding and protection our forest should be everybody’s business. Let us stand and tighten our belts to ensure that our forest is in good shape”, he concluded.
Abdoulie Sanneh, the director of Forestry, said that they have to strive hard and make sure that those cutting trees have their punishment. “If the President takes all its income just to save the forest, why can’t we. Let us help one another to maintain our forest,” he stated and commending all those who contributed to the success of the campaign.
Official closing ceremony
After the tour, the official closing ceremony was held at the Governor’s Office, where a summary of the achievements and obstacles during the campaign were brought to the fore.
The governor commended the delegation and the chief for taking the laudable step. He hailed the media for a job well done. A certificate of appreciation was given to the governor by Kombo Foni Forestry Association (KOMFFORA).