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Statement of H.E. Adama Barrow, President of The Repblic of The Gambia at The Launch of The Eco-System-Based Adaptation (EbA) Project in The Gambia

TUESDAY, 23rd JANUARY, 2018, KAIRABA BEACH HOTEL

We are meeting here today to launch a project entitled: Large-scale Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) Project in The Gambia.

This project is of immense importance to Government, being the largest single natural resource development project The Gambia has ever benefitted from. I am also made to understand that this project is the first of this scale to be funded by the Global Climate Fund (GCF). Thus, this accords a special significance to the launch of this Project this morning.

The EbA Project could not have come at a better time when the country’s natural resource base, which provides the means of livelihood to the majority of our rural communities and contributes significantly to the national economy, has been experiencing some of its worst natural and human pressures in recent times. Statistics have shown that The Gambia has lost about 97,000 hectares of forest cover in the last decade alone. This corresponds to an average annual loss of 2.3 per cent of forest cover. What is more disturbing is the fact that human-induced causes such as massive illegal logging, encroachments by human settlement expansions and unsustainable agricultural practices, to name a few, are ultimately responsible for these damages. This situation, however, continues to be worsened by the growing human population and industrialization for global economic reasons. Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that, due to current worsening climate change impacts, the rate of replenishment of lost natural ecosystems ranges from ‘negative’ growth of the forests to just modest improvements.

In The Gambia, the unprecedented upsurge in the export and re-export of precious timber from the country during the last decade, partly in response to huge demands from new markets, particularly in Asia,  as alternative sources of income to many, who once tilled the soils, is negating all our national efforts to restore our life-supporting  natural resource endowments.

All these unfortunate trends in the country’s natural environment equally come back to haunt and frustrate our efforts to arrest the decline in the conservation of the country’s fragile natural resource heritage.

Evidences of the deleterious effects of climate change on The Gambia include all of the following emerging realities:

a) decreased average rainfall and duration of the rainy season;

b) increased frequency and length of droughts;

c) increased temperatures; and

d) increased frequency and severity of flashfloods in the period since 1945.

The National Plan of Action (NAPA) prepared to address climate change impacts notes that the total national area that receives less than 800mm of rainfall has increased from 36% to 93% of the national territory since the 1940s, hence, this country has now found itself among the drought-prone dry ‘Sahelian zone’ of West Africa.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the face of the above stressful situation of the natural resources of this country, the Government, through the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change & Natural Resources in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), sought assistance from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with a view to securing the much needed funds for addressing the debilitating situation with potentially devastating consequences on our people. I am glad to note, therefore, that the ambitious EbA Project has evolved from those engagements. The EbA shall introduce internationally-proven and certified technologies and practices in conservation generally, and with specific focus on the sustainable utilization of the country’s natural capital such as useful tree and animal species and their products, as well as the associated ecosystem services, to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the country’s economy. When implemented, the EbA Project shall directly benefit up to 11,550 Gambian households, with the potential to indirectly reach a further 46,200 households in the four target Regions. A strong component of the project is the idea of developing rural enterprises based on the sustainable processing and marketing of such natural products as fruit juices, honey, woodcrafts and sundry other food, medicinal and ornamental goods. The project shall equally sustainably exploit the ecosystem services of these interlocking natural treasures such as pollination, fisheries, ecotourism, etc, for maximum benefits of Gambians, particularly for rural communities. This project shall rehabilitate up to 10,000 hectares of degraded forest and wildlife parks through reforestation, enrichment planting, conservation of rare or endangered species as well as the restoration of 3,000 hectares of abandoned and marginal agricultural lands.

I am delighted to note also that the project shall support women (constituting at least 50 % of target beneficiaries) who are the primary carers and exploiters of most natural resources, and according to UN literature, have been largely marginalized by projects funded by the GCF in Africa. There is therefore an equally significant gender dimension embedded in the EbA Project and hence, a strong element of not just social justice but a great enabler for natural resource development as women are always in the forefront along the entire value chain of natural resources management from harvesting, through processing to the marketing of the products.

Mr. Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

This EbA project we are launching here today embodies the set of targeted solutions to effectively and comprehensively address the important natural resources ecosystems of the country. Furthermore, it encourages employing not only well-established and time-honoured conventional tools and technologies, but equally through the innovative deployment of the “Ecosystem Approach”. This approach is all about harmonizing the conservation of natural resources and their commercial exploitation to boost their market values, thus ensuring tangible benefits to the communities engaged in such enterprises. This would no doubt encourage conservation by these communities by taking greater care and concern for the surrounding natural resources in their localities.

In conclusion, I am delighted to say that the EbA project is a timely adaptation initiative that will go a long way in not only restoring a good portion of our degraded natural resource base but equally create the right atmosphere for the sustainable exploitation of these important resources, thus attracting the enthusiasm of the local communities to become concerned stakeholders of this natural heritage in their own localities.

To all those appointed to manage this project, and to the stakeholders more generally, I wish to urge you all to demonstrate strong commitments and leadership in ensuring that the targets are not only met, but even exceeded in order that this country could ultimately establish itself as a model of the EbA projects in Africa. At this point, I would therefore urge the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources and partners to be steadfast and work even harder to ensure that the next time the country attains the highest level and becomes an Accredited Entity, of course, maintaining the strong and unbreakable links with the United Nations Environment for similar endeavours in future.

To the GCF and UNEP, I would like to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of my Government and, indeed, that of the people of The Gambia for the goodwill gesture you have so generously extended to us through this project. Allow me to reassure you that we shall leave no stone unturned in our quest to ensure that your funds are transparently and efficiently managed, geared towards assuring all that value for money is attained.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

With these remarks, I wish to take the singular honour of declaring the Large-scale Ecosystem-based Adaptation Project officially launched in The Gambia.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR KIND ATTENTION!

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