Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Chapter 3. FORESTRY SECTOR IN 2020

The two national Forest inventories carried out in 1983 and 1997/98 respectively with assistant forum the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ), through the Gambia German Forestry Project GGFP, European Union EU/EDF, Upper River Division Forest Project), KFW and USAID have provided forestry Department decision - markers and those national and international planners committed to Forestry development in The Gambia with relevant information about the states of the Gambian forests.

These inventories also provided a decisive time series analysis regarding the changes occurring in different types of land use and vegetation covers.

With a Forest cover of about 46% of the total land area, The Gambia has till a valuable forestry resources (Ludung and Bojang, 1998). These resources are central to the Gambian environment and economic development.

The forest cover includes woodland, Savannah woodland, tree and shrub Savannah and Mangroves. These forest types supply the majority of the Gambian population both rural and urban dwellers with raw materials such as firewood, charcoal, poles timber, tool handles, non timber forest products, e.g. fruits barks fibre, resins, roots/tubers, leaves honey and wax etc. used as food, beverage and medicine and a wide range of habitats for both the terrestrial and aquatic biodiversities.

The 1997/98-forest resource inventory provides valuable information about the description of the forest resource (area, stocking volume of different tree species etc.). It also indicated that, although the forest situation seems to reach a certain balance in-terms of total area, the most productive forest types in forms of biodiversity and tree species composition have been continuously altered for the last two decades, a trend which may continue into the next two decade or beyond.


3.1. State of Forests and Plantations

The Forest resources of the Gambia was first assessed in 1981/82 and the various land use types were mapped (Forester, 1983). This inventory provided the Forestry Department with a valuable database and gave a reliable idea about the conditions of the Gambian forests for necessary actions such as forest Policy formulation, planning etc.

In 1997/98, the second inventory was carried out to obtain accurate and quantitative estimates of the changes that occurred in our forests in the last fifteen years. It also helps the Forestry Department and its partners in gaining a better understanding of our intervention and the trend of the forests in the future.


Mangrove Forest

The area of high mangrove has decreased considerably from 30,000ha to 15,000ha. (Brent, 1959) however the total mangrove are constant as the low mangroves have increased 15,000ha. The delineation criterion low and high mangrove is the average stand height of 7m. Therefore it is easy to understand that a perfectly correct delineation of low and high mangrove is possible. The highest ha - volume with 183.5 m3/ha is in the stratum "high mangrove" follow by that of the "closed woodland" with nearly 70m3/ha .

A very big saw timber reserve is the high mangrove where nearly half of the total saw timber vol. is concentrated. The main problem of the exploitation of the high mangrove is the access to the stands and consequently the felling and logging procedures. Concerning the land use strata a relatively high dead wood portion is recorded in the "High mangrove". This is mainly due to lack of a comprehensive management plan.

Plantation Forestry

Plantation establishment, using Gmelina aborea was the main preoccupation of the Department of Forestry in the years between 1953 and 1985. A total of about 13000 hectares of monoculture of Gmelina aborea and very small amount of Tectona grandis were planted mainly in the Western Division. The high cost of plantation establishment and fire protection as well as to conserve biodiversity caused the Department to reconsider itís forest management priorities and potentials and since 1985, a policy decision was reached to re-orient Forestry Department to focus more on natural forest management.

As comparison, the Gmelina aborea stands in The Gambia contain about 45,000 m3 , which represents 1.8% only. The percentage of decayed trees within these stands is only 2%. This can be explained by the fact that the Gmelina stands are well protected especially against annual bushfires.

The Gmelina aborea plantations have a very high stand density of 415 tree per hectare, almost the same as the mangrove with 416 trees per hectare. Though the Gmelina aborea stand density is almost the same as that of the mangroves the basal area is about half of the mangrove (10.4m3/ha) with a smaller average diameter of about 19cm. The annual volume increment is 5.2m3/ha (secured to the mangrove forest) with the regeneration of about 2,328 trees per hectare in a matured stand.

Trees Outside Forest (TOF)

The selection for protection of trees out side the forest depends on their socio-economic values and the Legislative protection accorded to them. Majority of these parkland species are protected not for their timber values but for their medicinal, food, fodder and nutrients values to satisfy the local demands of the population.

The common park land species in The Gambia are: Cordyla pinnata, Parkia biglobosa Pterocarpus erinaceas, Adansonia digitata, Borassus aethiopum,Khaya senegalensis, Ziziphus mauritania, Spondial mumbin, Tamarindus indica, Vitex doniana and cola cordifolia.

The Gambia population especially the rural population know these species well. They have over time (because) specialised in the utilisation of these species in their own rights. The rural population know what tree species and which part of it offer and at what time of the year. A number of fruits are harvested from these parkland species both for edible fruit pulp, seeds, and young tender leaves which are used as green vegetables. Some of these species are planted around villages but the majority of them are found in the farmlands.


3.2. The Gambiaís biodiversity: status and trends

The Gambia with its characteristic Sudano Savannah woodland vegetation type has different types of ecosystems, including close woodland, open woodland, plantation ecosystems, tree and shrubs savanna, wetland ecosystems, (marine, coastal and freshwater) and agriculture (cropland and ecosystems).

This section describes the status and trends in biological diversity in The Gambia and conservation technique. For convenience, the section is divided into sub sections on terrestrial biodiversity, forest biodiversity, freshwater biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity, and agricultural biodiversity.


Wildlife Protected Areas

The Wildlife Conservation et, 1977, has defined protected areas as any area of land set aside by the Government for purposes of preserving and managing the habitat and ecology, including any Forest park or local sanctuary. The current protected area system in The Gambia comprises six national parks and nature reserves under the mandate of the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, DPWM covering a total land area of 39,772 ha i.e. about 3.7% of the Gambiaís land area.

The DPWM plans to have at least 5% of the land area as protected area including representative samples of all major habitats that needs to be conserved. Three of the protected areas are currently open to the public namely Abuko Nature Reserve, Tanji Bird Reserve and Kiang West National Park (KWNP).

The National Parks and Reserves of The Gambia have been specifically selected for species richness, habitat fragility, the endangered nature of the habitat type and/or species found within them. The intention is to provide a safe haven for flora and fauna to flourish without undue interference from man (utilisation of natural resources within the protected areas may be carried out with express permission from DPWM). In practice only local communities peripheral to the Kiang West National Park, have been allowed to make use of limited range of natural resources within the park.

The Baobolon Wetland Reserve was designated as a Ramsar site upon The Gambiaís ratification of the Ramsar Convention in 1996. A comprehensive study of Baobolon along with two additional sites, Nuimi National Park and the Tanji Wetland Complex, was conducted in 1997 with a view to designating them as Ramsar sites.


Table 3: National Parks And Nature Reserves In The Gambia




AREA (ha)


Abuko Nature Reserve




River Gambia Nat. Park




Nuimi National Park




Kiang West National Park




Tanji Coastal Park




Bao Bolon Wetland

Not yet







Table 4: Summary Of Number Of Fauna Species In Protected Areas





Abuko Nature Reserve




River Gambia Nat. Park




Nuimi National Park




Kiang West National Park




Tanji Bird Reserve




Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve




*No species found/no research done


Wildlife species in the Gambia

Despite the small size of The Gambia, it has an impressive diversity of flora and fauna due to a combination if itís geographical position and the presence of the River Gambia. However, to date there has been little investigation aimed at determining the abundance and distribution of most of the major groups and changes in abundance over time have been quantified. There remain considerable gaps in our knowledge regarding the diversity of many groups, though the piscifauna and avifauna have both received considerable attention. There are currently a number of studies in progress including an on-going bird ringing program in Nuimi National Park, a water foul census, an assessment of sites for designation as important Bird Area (IBA), and research on Whales and Dolphins (Cetacean).

The following wildlife species are important:

Vertebrates ĖMammals; Birds (Avifauna); Amphibians and Reptiles (Heretpfaima)

Mammals: A list of mammals complied in the late 1960ís indicated that there are 67 species of mammals but may have omitted many of the smaller Rodents (Rodentia) and bats (Chiroptera). The most recent assessment (Murphy, 1998), puts the total number of mammals at 99 including marine mammals recorded form Gambian waters.

Birds (Avifauna): Core (1990) and Tanji Talk (1994) indicated that there are 525 species of birds recorded form The Gambia, but this list has recently been enlarged to 552 by Barlow et al (1997). This impressive list is represented by 75 families of bird and gives The Gambia one of the highest density of avian species per Kilometer Square in Africa. Over 220 species are known to breed within the country, while 150 species migrate to the Palearctic during the northern winter. There are many inter-African migrants also and the River Gambia appears to act as a flyway of considerable international importance. There remain however, major information gaps on the status and distribution of birds in The Gambia.

Amphibians and Reptile (Heretpfaima): There has been limited and localised study of the status and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in The Gambia. The most recent checklist of both groups compile indicated that there are 49 species of reptile and 30 species of amphibians (Lenz, 1974; Gruschwitz et al, 1991; Jones et al, 1991). A species of stink chalcides armitagei, was recorded for the first time at Cap St. Mary in 1990 and subsequently rediscovered in 1992 (et al 1991) on the coast within the Tanji Wetland complex, a proposed Ramsar Site. C. armitager appears to be endemic to The Gambia.

Invertebrates: Most investigations today on invertebrates within The Gambia have focused primarily on pest species though the Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) and Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths) have also attracted some attention. There have been 72 species of Dragon fly and Damsel fly recorded by Prendergast (1996) after only limited investigations. Newport (1997) indicated that 155 species of Butterfly have been observed in The Gambia. No estimation of the number of Moth species has been given. No reliable data for The Gambia exists on the other invertebrate phyla.

Micro-organisms: There is no data available on the status and distribution of viruses, bacteria, fungi, lichens and algae.


Threatened and Declining Species

There is little hard data on threatened and declining species in The Gambia. There has been a considerable decline in the diversity of large mammalian species, which commenced during the latter part of the nineteenth century. From the species in The Gambia in the late 1960s, it was estimated that of the 67 species of mammals listed, 13 had become extinct and a similar number were threatened with extinction (DPWM 1991). A number of species of mammals still migrate into The Gambia including Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) and Campbellís Mona monkey (Cercopitheocus Mona Campbell), Wild dogs (Lycoon pitus) and Lio (Panthera Leo) still infrequently enter the eastern end of The Gambia, invariably as vagrants from Niokolokoba National Park in Senegal.

Several of the remaining large mammals including hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibins), Sitatunga (Taegelaphus splekei) and West African manatee (Trichecus senegalensis) are present in scattered and small populations and are threatened with extirpation. Leopards (Panther pardus) are extremely rare and breeding may not occur within The Gambia anymore. The major factors, which led to the loss of a large proportion of the large mammalian species, include the heavy hunting pressure and habitat destruction.


National Policies and Legislation Relevant to Biodiversity Conservation

Even though the importance of biodiversity cuts across many institutions and agencies in The Gambia, very few departments have clear policy statements on the protection and conservation of this natural heritage. Departments of Parks and Wildlife, Forestry (Forest Policy of 1995) and Fisheries along with other sectors continue to put emphasis on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

As the review of sectoral policies continues, there is an ample opportunity for harmonisation with a view to coming up with a clear biodiversity national policy to be backed by an enforceable legislation. This is important for proper management of our natural heritage - biodiversity. Similarly, The Gambia does not have a specific law on biological diversity.

Offenders of biodiversity - related laws are normally tried by the magistrateís courts or District Tribunals and since they mostly occur outside the city limits they are not usually handled by State Counsels. At the Department level, each Department has its own officers responsible for enforcement, for example the Director of Parks and Wildlife Management and his appointed subordinates (Wildlife Officers) have powers of arrest and search of persons found or suspected to be in illegal possession of any wild animal or its meat or trophy. Traditional Courts, presided over by chiefs and respected community elders, also handle major cases such as illegal felling of trees and starting of bush fires. With the on-going Local Government Reform and Decentralisation these traditional administrative structures and institutions will assume an indispensable role in biodiversity conservation.


State of management systems

The New Forest legislation (1998) distinguishes four broad forest categories state forests, community forest, private forests, and national parks/nature reserves. The latter category is administered and manage by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, see Table 5.

Table 5: Forest under controlled management and under no management protection (ha)

Controlled management (ha)



No management protection (ha)





forest parks

community forests

private forests



forest parks

forest reserves

No management













Lower River









Central River









Upper River









North Bank









The Gambia









*No community controlled state forest

SOURCE: FD Statistics: Schindele and Bojang (1995; Teusan (1999)

State forests comprise of the gazetted forest parks and forest reserves. Some 13,204 ha or 39% of the total forest park area of 34,027 ha are at present under management, see Table 5. The managed forest park area includes some 2,135 ha of Gmelina plantations all located in the WD. According to the GFMC, at least a forest park are of some 17,000 ha is needed for demonstration and training purposes. The remaining forest park area shall be managed by pursuing other management objectives. GFMC implementation including the establishment of required physical infrastructure and logistics require considerable investments, which are to a large extent shouldered through foreign assisted projects.

Although private forest both natural and plantations are foreseen in the forest policy and legislation, to date only one private Gmelina plantation of about 100 ha exits which was even established before the new policy was formulated. At the moment the FDís highest priority is to bring as much as possible of forest reserves under community management. Considering the increasing wood demand, however the FD should pay equal attention to promotion and supporting private woodlots.


International Conventions and Agreements

The Gambia is a signatory and a Party to several regional and international and treaties agreements related to biodiversity. The international conventions include, among others:

Convention on Biological Diversity,

Convention on International Trade Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),

Convention on Water of International Importance Especially as Water Fowl Habitat (RAMSAR),

Convention Coverage the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage,

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification,

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,

Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer the Algiers Convention,

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer,

Basel Convention on the Control of transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, and

Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon tests in the Atmosphere in Outer Space and under Water.

The regional agreements to which The Gambia is a Party include:

Convention on the African Migratory Locust,

Convention for Co-operation in the Protection and

Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (WACAF),

Protocol Concerning Co-operation in Combating Marine Pollution in cases of Emergency in West and Central African Region (WACAF),

Bamako Convention on the Ban of the import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement within Africa of Hazardous Wastes,

Convention establish the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILLSS).

All the above-mentioned legal instructments, offer protection to the forest ecosystems which serve as habitats to the various flora and fauna species.


3.3. State of Forest Industries

There are two categories of wood industries active in The Gambia Viz:

Public wood industries

Private wood industries

Only two government sawmills are operational in the country (Kafuta and Dumbutu sawmills) under the management of Forestry Department two private sawmills (Nyambai and Fass sawmills) are also actively operational.

In addition to the above mentioned several re-saw machines are installed and operational nation wide with greater concentration in the greater Banjul area.

According to Ludwig R. and Bojang L. (1998) inventory report, the overall average annual increment of 0.6m3/ha for timber and firewood species indicates that for the time being the amount of sustainable harvestable timber is small. The changes observed in the species composition of woodlands and savannahs could result to more uniform stands of only few species, which will not provide the great variation of wood products as the local population is used to harvest. This will be catastrophic for the Gambia for at present over 90% of the population both rural and urban uses forest industrial products such as firewood and charcoal as domestic energy for cooking, heating, ironing etc.

Therefore the continuous supply of the commodity is a basic necessity for the population. Several studies; Openshaw 1973; CILSS 1977; Carlowitz 1980; Orgatec, 1982; Bulow 1983; Foley 1994 and Steina 1994 were conducted to estimate the fuelwood demand of the country. The results show a degree of disparity. However, going by the two closest results (Opershaw 1973 and Foley 1994), the estimated consumption rate per capital falls within the range of between 0.34m3 and 0.44m3. Other recent studies (Danso et al 1994 and Jato 1999) carried out on detail supply and demand analyses came with a conclusion that if the present population growth rate (4.2%) continue it will exceed the available forest industrial wood supplies in both quantity and quality, even in optimistic scenarios. In the medium and long term, the Gambiaís demand for all industrial wood products, firewood in particular must be augmented by using alternative energy resources and other substitutes. Other industrial wood products of very important economic value to the majority of the Gambia population are:

Fence Post

Poles for roofing

Timber for construction

Rhunpalm splits for roofing

However, the above mentioned industries will not operate at the present capacities in the future as a result of insufficient supply of raw materials


3.4. Social and Economic Implications

The Gambian forest contributes immensely to The Gambiaís economy and the social well being of Gambiaís population and provide several environmental services. In additional to maintaining the micro-climatic balance, the stabilisation of the river banks and providing life support systems to many other plants, animals and aquatic life, forests are important to the local communities who depend on them for food, medicines, wood products for construction and energy (particularly to women who rely on the forests for their subsistence). Particularly important forest products are for women.

The forestry sub-sector contributes an estimated 1% to GDP. This figure is said to be under estimation considering the illegal, and informal trade that takes place in both the timber industries and other by products of wood e.g. charcoal.

On the other hand, the quality of life for most rural communities is greatly dependent on access to forest resources. However, the problem is to be able to assign a monetary value to the social and cultural benefits of forest, and such values are extremely important in determining appropriate forest uses.

Even with the optimistic scenarios, if the present rate of population growth is not checked, the institutional and technical support services for the conservation management and development of forestry resources will be inadequate. Failure to bring about affordable substitutes for the much needed forest pro ducts will contribute to policy failures. Perhaps the most urgent factor to get under control is bush fires. Bush fires lead to breakdown of the social and economic benefits of our forests and this is resulting in serious shortages of the very important life supporting system.


3.5. Forestry and the environment

Forest resources are a source of biological diversity in themselves. The forest resources are also important for the conservation of biological diversity and for overall environmental protection. A good amount of vegetative cover for the land provides a good measure against soil erosion and other forms of land degradation. The Gambiaís biodiversity resources are under increasing pressures and there is an alarming decline in both faunal and floral specie numbers.

In The Gambia, forests play multiple functions including the provision of domestic energy for cooking, building materials in the form of poles and timber, medicinal products, wild fruits and nuts, honey and other services. The environmental functions include soil erosion control, carbon sequestration and the enhancement of local climatic conditions.

The Gambia has designated 6 protected areas for the conservation of wildlife resources. In addition to fulfilling that function, the protected areas also contain significant amounts of plant species, particularly the rare plant species. The total area under this form of land use currently stands at around 3.4% of The Gambiaís total land area. Following the ratification of the international convention on Biological Diversity in 1994, The Government of The Gambia under the auspices of its Department of Parks and Wildlife Management elaborated the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP). The BSAP provides a coherent framework for the management of The Gambiaís biological resources on a sustainable basis as well as to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising. One of the policy objectives of the BSAP is to increase the area under wildlife to about 5% of the total land area of The Gambia. Furthermore, the policy also aims to involve local communities in the management of Biological resources. The implementation of such a policy is likely to promote to the better management and enhancement of forest-based biodiversity.

As indicated earlier, forests contribute a lot to environmental protection in terms of watershed protection where the water, soil, plant, animal and other resources are preserved. Forests are also important in arresting land degradation as they provide effective cover and protection against the impacts of rain and geological process of soil erosion. Other functions of forest include control of Desertification and carbon sequestration, which is an important means of reducing the concentration of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. These important forest functions are likely to be affected adversely because the contributory factors are likely to be further aggravated by human activities in the quest for meeting their needs in terms of agricultural activities, housing and other needs.


3.6. Institutional Framework for Forestry

The new organisational structure has established clear line of commands and responsibilities from the FD headquarters down to the field operational level. It entrusted the divisional Forest officer with comprehensive management responsibilities within a division including staff posting and operation planning. However, an efficient M & E system in particular impact monitoring is not yet in place.

In order to cope with the integrate forest management approach of the GFMC and to decentralised forest administration from the national to the divisional and to the local level, the organisational set-up of the FD was restructured in 1995, see Annex 4. At the same time forestry administrative guidelines including a planning, monitoring and evaluation system were established. Without initial investment cost for physical and logistic infrastructure facilities such as buildings, physical forest infrastructures (roads, machinery inputs for fire break establishment, etc.) office equipment, vehicles the GFMC implementation will not succeed which could result to policy failure. (FD administrative circles, status and further demand of physical infrastructures)

According to the GFMC, forest administration within a division is subdivided into administrative circles. Each circle is managed from a forest station by a local forest officer or head of administrative circle that reports to the divisional forest officer. Administrative circles are further subdivided into implementation areas, which constitute either forest park or extension circuits. At present 11 forest stations/sub-stations are operational. Five field offices are temporarily rented with foreign assistance. Additional 14 stations/sub-stations would be required to cover the country with a network of offices providing mainly forest extension and support services to the local population and, probably, acting as focal point for land use planning at village level. In addition to forest stations, sub-stations or field offices are foreseen in large administrative circles, which are administratively under the forest station.

Although the FD staff situation has considerably improved during the past year, there is still a staff deficiency in terms of quantity and qualification. Out of actual staff number of 113 without auxiliary staff, there are only 8 forestry degree holders and just some 12 forest technicians holding diploma certificates. The most serious gap of available staff exists at forest station and field level. There, staff is needed with a technical knowledge in key disciplines such as social forestry, agroforestry, economy and socio-economy (primarily at station level) and sufficient experience in participatory learning and action (at field level).

The total staff demand was estimated based on the assumptions that the GFMC is implemented country-wide and that FDís administrative structure is further streamlined by putting afforestation under divisional management, abolishing the beekeeping section, up-grading training and adaptive research, merging the Extension Unit with the CF Unit, and by transferring management responsibilities to local communities represented by forest committees.

Forestry Departments personnel status and long term demand and the training demand and requirement are presented in Annex 2, 3 and 4.



Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page