Land & Forest Use:
Apart from Gambian forestry's critical importance to
the biological diversity of a number of life systems,
it also also has natural resources which provide vital
energy, materials for the building industry, food and
medical drugs to the population. 43% of the country’s
entire land area (505,000 hectares) is under forest
cover with woodland making up for 10% and the remainder
consisting of savanna and mangroves which are found
along the Gambia
The mangroves system is estimated to cover 60,000 to
67,000 ha. There are 66 natural forest park areas covering
a total area of 34,000 ha.
There are currently 6,462 ha of forest land under the
management of community projects. The forest ecosystem
has significantly changed in the last 2 to 3 decades
from being a dense and highly biologically diverse environment
to its present scant state. High population growth is
the single most important reason for the state of deforestation.
The Forest Policy (1995-2005) aims to maintain, reserve
and develop 30% of forest land resources of the country
ensuring that 75% of these forest areas are managed
by local people in their communities.
At the turn of the last century the Gambia's land territory
was extensively covered in pristine forests. However,
with the advent of an expanding population, the balance
between humans and the environment became destabilised
and a process of de-forestation had begun.
The main cause of this deforestation was the unchecked
use of fires which systematically destroyed most of
the vegetation cover. The other causes were and are
still the felling of trees for firewood, demarcating
fences, building purposes, and clearing for the purpose
of grazing livestock.
Secondary savannas are characterised by less diversity
made up of mainly fire resistant vegetation. Their increase
is a direct consequence of regular fires which do not
allow the restoration of the original vegetation cover.
Other effects and impacts of uncontrolled bush and forest
• soil and water degradation
due to the release of minerals stored in the burnt biomass,
and the deterioration of physical composition and chemical
• an alteration of the micro-climate;
• change and loss of habitat for the indigenous
flora and fauna population;
• loss of biomass
which could be used for animal fodder, fuel, compost,
• air pollution.
The process of deforestation is still going on. It is
steadily reducing the biological and economic productivity
and viability of the Gambian forest ecosystems as well
as that of the surrounding croplands and will lead to
irreversible losses of land productivity if it cannot
be halted and reversed. The main cause of wildlife /
biodiversity loss is habitat destruction. Poaching/
illegal hunting is also a contributory factor.
A number of research studies have been conducted in
recent years and they indicate that most of the Gambian
farmers can well identify between the past and present
environmental situation and are aware of the consequences
and effects of deforestation. However, they have been
farming for generations and may not have thought about
modern, new techniques to preserve soil fertility and
protecting land. Others may simply not have any means
nor time or both, because of more important genuine
businesses and social obligations. Land borrowers are
constrained to develop the land they cultivate due to
the traditional land tenure system. Marginal groups
of the society often do not have access to land at all.
They are forced to clear forest land for crop production
or depend on forest products exploitation in order to
survive. This can be in the form of selling firewood
The Government of The Gambia has ratified the international
Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), the the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and
the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
of the United Nations.
Source: Dept. of Forestry