At around 1900 most of the Gambia's land area was still blanketed by dense, almost impenetrable forests although areas of land had already been cleared of trees for the purpose of growing crops. At that time the forests were rich in wildlife as they constituted the habitat for a variety of large mammals which are nowadays rare or locally extinct.
The Department of Forestry & the Environment was created in 1976. Its origins go back to 1938 when the first real steps in forestry management were taken through the appointment of a Forest Committee under the Colonial Office in Bathurst which was supposed to deal with forestry related matters in the Protectorate of The Gambia.
However, due to the outbreak of World War Two the committee remained more or less inactive until 1950 with the appointment of a forestry adviser to the protectorate administration. He was to head the first forestry section within the Department of Development and Agriculture.
Between 1950 to 1954 he identified and demarcated 66 forest parks designated for conservation and forest production such as timber for the construction industry, bamboo and rhun palms. The colonial administration recognized that the slash and burn activities of local people was causing massive destruction however, they also realized that it would be impractical to attempt total protection for all the parks under its jurisdiction.
1959 saw the planting of Gmelina arborea, a medium-sized deciduous tree, within the naturally occurring forests by the forestry service. The aim was to meet The Gambia's wood requirements for the present and future generations
After independence in 1965, the public sector intensified its involvement in forestry in 1976. The forestry was reorganized and upgraded to become one of eight departments within the Ministry of Agricultural and Natural Resources. In 1981, the FD was transferred to the Ministry of water Resources, Fisheries and Forestry, which was later renamed into Ministry of Natural Resources.
The creation of an independent Department of Forestry in 1976 paved the way for the expansion of forestry activities in the country. The FD initially concentrated its efforts on the continued establishment and management of plantations.
The new department benefited from a few externally funded projects at the time (e.g. USAID, FAOBADEA, ETC) that resulted in the expansion of forest activities in the country and the training of forestry staff. In 1979 the Federal Republic of Germany initiated the Gambian - German Forestry Project (GGFP) which still provides technical assistance to the FD. This project introduced natural forest management in forest parks and started with Community Forestry in the two regions of West Coast Region and Lower River Division. In 1996 a second German funded project was initiated, the then Central River Division Forestry Project (CRDFP), which implements participatory forest management in the Central River Division. Between 1997 and 2001, the EC funded Upper River Division Forestry Project (URDFP) implemented participatory forest management in the Upper River Region.
The Department of Forestry is the responsible government institution under the purview of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources (MECCNAR) in charge of forestry administration – ensuring sustainable management, utilizations and protection of all forest resources in The Gambia (excluding private natural and plantations). The forestry legislative frameworks give DoF the mandate to govern the affairs of forest resources in The Gambia, while soliciting active participation of the rural population and other stakeholders. In addition, it shall be responsible for co-operating and liaising with national and international organizations and bodies all over the world on forestry matters in The Gambia
Forest Management References:
In the late 80s, when more knowledge and experience was made in natural forest management, it became clear that the government would not be in the position to protect and manage the country's forest resources without the assistance and support of forest adjacent communities. This was the time when a community forestry pilot scheme was launched.
Based on the experiences gained in the testing of state and community forest management models, the GFMC was developed, a national forestry action plan was drafted, forestry policy and legislation were reviewed, and the organizational set-up of the FD was restructured.
Forest Act & Forest Regulations:
The Department of Forestry’s operational mandate is embodied in the Forest Regulation, which was enacted in 1978. The Forest Act (1998) and Regulations involve the communities in forest management and protection by legally requiring them to participate in fire prevention and participative forest management activities.
Gambian Forest Management Concept (GFMC)
The GFMC is an approach to conserve and improve the forest resources of The Gambia in order to supply as much as possible of the country's demand for forest products through the sustainable management of its forest resources.
The GFMC has been developed by the Gambian-German Forest Project in joint cooperation with the Forestry Department since 1980.
Forest management in The Gambia is characterized by extensive state involvement which started with the state owned forest park concepts in the 50s. Government ownership of all naturally grown trees became statutory law with the enactment of the forest legislation in 1977 and the FD was entrusted with the overall management responsibility.
Although the FD was entrusted the mandate of forest protection it was unable to accomplish the task due to the tense relationship with the population and also because of lack of human and material resources. In the late 80s when more knowledge and experience was made in natural forest management, it became clear that the government will never be in the position to protect and manage the country’s forest resources with-out the assistance and support of forest adjacent communities. This was the time when the community forest management concept was developed. Community forestry was finally introduced in 1991.
Both the state and the community forest management model were merged into one concept, called the Gambian Forest Management Concept (GFMC). This concept is actually being implemented in four of the five divisions with assistance provided by the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) which assists the forestry sector since 1979 and the European Union (EU).
The government fully supports the involvement of local communities and the private sector in the management of the country’s forest resources which is expressed by passing a new forest policy and legislation in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
Since budgetary allocations were and are insufficient to implement forestry activities, the FD through the new forest policy succeeded in establishing a National Forest Fund (NFF) in 1996.
Over the past several decades, forest management in The Gambia was illustrated by wide range state involvement which started with the state owned forest park concepts in the 50s. Government ownership of all naturally grown trees became statutory law with the enactment of the forest legislation in 1977 and the Forestry Department (FD) was entrusted with the overall management responsibility. However, the FD was unable to accomplish the task due to the tense relationship with the population and also because of lack of human and material resources. In the late 80s when more knowledge and experience was made in natural forest management, it became clear that the government will never be in the position to protect and manage the country’s forest resources without the assistance and support of forest adjacent communities. This was the time when a community forestry pilot scheme was launched.
Based on the experience gained in the testing of state and community forest management models, the Gambian Forest Management Concept (GFMC) was developed, a national forestry action plan was drafted, forest policy and legislation were reviewed, and the organizational set-up of the FD was restructured. At present the GFMC is implemented in all the five regions in the Country.
The Government of The Gambia has ratified several International Conventions which are related to the rational management and utilization of the Forest resources such as:
1. The Convention on Biological Diversity
2. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
3. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
4. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
5. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)