Typical of many West African countries, the forest resources of the Gambia have been subject to substantial exploitative pressures over recent decades with forest products filling an important role in the domestic economy.
Unlike in many of the developing nations situated in the moist and semi-moist tropical regions, there has been little emphasis placed on the development of a commercial logging/timber sector in The Gambia, primarily due to the lack of large areas of closed forest capable of sustaining such activities (FAO/UNEP, 1981). The limited resources have proved a major disincentive for large-scale commercial firms to invest in the Gambia Forestry Sector. The activities of The Gambia German Forestry Project (GGFP) have led to the development of a number of relatively small scale timber harvesting and processing facilities, the operations of which are typically co-ordinated within the sustainable management system of gazette forest parks. Correspondingly these extent little detrimental pressure on the overall long term, forest resources of the nation.
It is widely recognised that the most important negative pressures exerted on Gambia forests have emanated from the repaid population growth experienced over recent decades (estimated at 4.1% pa in 1993). The continual increase in population has led to a subsequent substantial expansion in the domestic demand for forest resources for utilisation at the household level.
The growth in consumer requirements has led to the widespread random and informal harvesting of tree products throughout the country, with large proportions of the harvest being transported for sale in the urban centres in the west of the country.
However, the forest resource in the Gambia plays a significant role in Socio-economic development with most of the local population dependent on it for their energy and other utility wooden.
The forestry sector contribution to gross domestic production has been estimated at 1%. This estimate is however considered by many as a gross under estimation as did not consider the informal sector such as savings from fuel woodfuel collection by the rural population for their own use as well as the informal trade in forest produce.
The 1993 national energy balance sheet produced by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment indicate that fuelwood consumption accounts for more that 80% of total energy consumed annually in the country.