By Modou Touray
Omar Jarju and Zakaria Colley are voluntary guards at the “Bumorut” community forest in Sutus injang village. They guard the 64-hectare forest.
“I need professional security shoes and outfits. I need to run sometimes and therefore I need to get materials to avoid unnecessary injury,” said Omar Jarju and re-echoed by Zakaria.
The community forest is located close to the border with the southern region of Senegal (Casamance). It is reportedly exposed to external threat due to the periodic clashes between Senegalese forces and MFDC rebels.
According to the chairman of the Community Forest Committee, Landing Colley, the management of the park is challenging as most of the pioneers and hardworking members have died while others are aging.
“Illegal bushfire during the dry season also endangers the effective growth of the forest.”
Colley heads a 15-member committee charged with the management of the forest.
Concept of the community forest was introduced to the village by Marcel Badjie and Eddi Jarju who were working with the St. Joseph family farms project in Bwiam. The villagers embraced the idea due to its significance to the environment.
Ousman Sonko, a forestry officer who spoke to this medium, applauded the initiative of the people of Sutusinjang for their collective spirit in nurturing the community forest.
“For the forest park to be satisfied and fully handed over to the community, there are procedures to be followed. All requirements most be fulfilled and the memorandum of understanding on its management be signed by Forestry and the community,” Ousman Sonko explained.
Mr Alkali Jarjusey, forestry and natural resources expert working with the National Resources Consulting (NACO), spoke at length on the importance of community forest on the environment and the involvement of the community in preserving it.
These statements were made as part of a monitoring visit by the Agriculture, Natural Resources/Soil Lowlands Management Committee (ANR/SLM Committee). This is a sub-committee of the technical advisory committee (TAC) of the West Coast Region.
The Technical Advisory Committee consists heads of government institutions/departments and NGOs in an administrative region which provide technical support to regional governors.