The aim of the ANRM Programme is to conserve and promote the rational use of cultivable land, pasture, and forests to assure a healthy environment, which will improve the quality of life for present and future generations.
With The Gambia's economy largely based on agriculture, many Gambians depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. ANRM has great potential to increase its contribution to national development as the agricultural sector provides the largest foreign exchange earnings.
Over the decades, natural resource policies in The Gambia have not adequately addressed issues of sustainability. Natural resources have therefore been degraded in many parts of the country with alarming signs of depletion in some areas. No one person bears sole responsibility for reversing these trends. Rather, a collaborative, cooperative effort to improve the outlook for agricultural productivity and natural resources management is required. Full cooperation and participation of Government, NGOs, Community-based organisations, women's and youth groups, and the private sector must all work together to effectively implement the ANRM Programme. Some of the most critical natural resource management issues are:
Deforestation: Caused by the excessive felling of trees for timber, firewood, farming, uncontrolled bush fires and grazing, deforestation poses many serious natural resource problems. With many combined factors leading to deforestation, it is impossible to maintain the present levels of firewood consumption in The Gambia.
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In an effort to reduce the inefficient and unnecessary cutting of trees, a charcoal production ban was instituted and a number of measures were promoted simultaneously to reduce inefficient and unsustainable extraction of wood. These efforts include rehabilitation of deforested areas, management of trees in farmlands, particularly by community forestry management, soil conservation and composting measures, briquetting of groundnut shells and use of butane gas.
Water Resources Management: Recurrent droughts have caused ground water level to drop and wells to dry up. This endangers public health as well as reduces crop yields and threatens livestock production. A related problem is increasing cases of salt water intrusion. As water levels drop and less fresh water is flowing through The River Gambia, salt water is able to progress up into rice swamps. Salt water severely curtails rice production and reduces biodiversity in these cases.
Soil Conservation: With declining forests and vegetation due to tree cutting and bush fires, soil erosion poses a serious natural resources management problem as the valuable top soil is washed away, leaving poor quality soil for fanning. Effective soil conservation measures have been tried and tested in The Gambia. Such land reclamation and soil Conservation efforts increase agricultural production, enhance communal livestock grazing. Farmers are able to farm on their own lands; there will be less conflict between cattle owners and farmers in their farmland.
Fisheries Resources: The introduction of community-based fishing endeavors may reduce the increasing problems associated with commercial over-fishing. If fish stocks are not properly managed. it could spell serious environmental and public health issues. Proper management and marketing must accompany community-based initiatives, so as to improve fish stocks, sanitation and reduce the incidence of transferable diseases.