Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Environment advocates in the wild

About thirty (30) journalists from Biodiversity Action Journalists Gambia (BAJ Gambia) led by the staff of Department of Parks and Wildlife Managemen, Mr, Abdoulie Sawo from the 24th to 25th July, 2014 embarked on a two days visits to national parks; aim at obtaining first-hand information about the existing parks in the country.

BAJ Gambia members
The places visited included Tanji Bird Reserve, Abuko Nature Reserve and Kiang West National Parks thanks to the support of UNDP-GEF Small Grant Programme.

The first place to visit was Tanji Bird Reserve in the Kombo North, West Coast Region, shortly before they go in the parks they (BAJ-Gambia) were briefed by staff of the department on the ground on history and activities of the park including benefits, challenges and way-forward.

Mamadou Edrisa Njie, Director of Programme for BAJ-Gambia in his introduction stated that the visit is the final activity of the UNDP/ GEF-Small Grants Programme financed programme and this came after series of programmes implemented across the country as stated in the project document, thus encourage public participation in environmental protection.

Highlighting some of the programmes implemented he said training of news editors and launching of BAJ-Gambia magazine was key in mainstreaming environmental reporting in the local newspapers and organize radio programmes for community radios and FMs.

He used the opportunity to thanked and commended UNDP-GEF Small Grant Programme for providing the strategic support to implement such programmes and activities.

Mr. Abdou Rahman Sallah, Executive Director BAJ-Gambia said the field trip is supported by UNDP-GEF Small Grant Programme through a project on environmental awareness on environmental protection and mitigation.

He reiterated that they have implemented series of  programmes from last year to date all geared towards enhancing the understanding of environmental reporters on the country’s biological and natural resources which has both national and international importance.

He explained that BAJ-Gambia is a coalition of environmental journalists drawn from print, electronic, bloggers and community radios across the country.

Director Sallah further pointed out that the environment is dwelling rapidly due to anthropogenic activities towards the environment such as cutting down of trees without replacement, bush burning, poaching etc.

Noting that the role of journalists in this case is to report the dangers of environment damages and crate awareness of the public on environmental protection and conservation thus encourage public participation in the crusade.

“As human beings I believed we have contributed either directly or indirectly towards environmental problems and therefore it’s our responsibility as human beings torestore, promote, protect and conserve the country’s natural resources for posterity”, he emphasized.

According to him, the principal objective of his organization is to advocate for sustainable use of the biological and natural resources to ensure its availability at all times.

“It is not our mandate to stop or prosecute environmental violators but we do have duty to inform the general public about the dangers of environmental damages and implications if one violate the environmental laws of the country”, he added.

He said: We called on all and sundry especially for those into the environment directly to observe the laws of the country for example fishermen to use the recommended fishing gears to avoid catching juvenile fishes that may not be useful to them.

Mr. Sallah went further to speak at length on the importance of the visit as it would prove to the journalists that what they have heard about the national parks is not a fiction is the truth.

He thanked and commended the parks and wildlife management, forestry department, fisheries, environment agency, water resources and various newspapers and radios for their continuous support in our crusade to protect the environment.

Mr. Sutay Sanneh, Tanji Bird Reserve park manager said the reserve was established since 1993 and has total land area of six hundred and twelve (612) hectares. Saying that the reserve is in the territory of Brufut but owned by the government of the Gambia.

According to him, the reserve has a co-management system which all the communities around the protected area namely Brufut (Ghana town), Tanji, Madiana among other surrounding villages.

He described the park as very important entity to the economic development of both the community and for the country as the place is having several species of bird as well as eco-camp which he said is among the best in the reserve in the sub region.

Mr. Abdoulie Saho, BAJ- Gambia’s board chairperson who is also a staff at the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management said as a department responsible for managing all parks in the country derived the initiatives are directed from the Banjul Declaration.

Abdoulie Sawo speaking to journalists         Cheetah at Abuko Nature Reserve

He said in doing this they established Site Management Committee (SMC) at every park in country that would work hand in hand with the parks departmental staff to ensure that protected areas are always in good shape.

He stressed that Tanji Park is a protected area that suffered from so many threats such as dumping and erosion and other environmental exploitations. He called on the need for all hands on deck to protect and preserve the remaining resources and come up with initiative such as BAJ-Gambia to promote environmental endeavours in the country.

As part of the visit, the team continued to Abuko Nature Reserve where the members had the opportunity to see hyenas, baboons, cheetah amongst others for the first time in their lives. And we were told by experts that, cheetah is the world fastest animal that runs seventy (70) miles per hour.

Later in the day the team proceeded to Kiang West National Park in Dumbuto village Lower River Region some one hundred and thirty kilometres from the capital city of Banjul were they had a night stop.

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