The Gambia, one of the world's poorest countries, is faced with rapid population growth which is putting tremendous
pressure on its few resources and remaining forests. The government has enacted laws to promote sustainable
development, but these are widely disregarded and not understood by the largely illiterate population. In addition,
the government lacks the funds and staff to enforce this legislation. Over the past generation the environment in Gambia suffered from fuelwood collection, subsistence agriculture, and clearing for livestock, as well as hunting and desertification.
||Gambia Forest Figures
Total forest area: 471,000 ha
% of land area: 41.7%
Primary forest cover: n/a
% of land area: n/a
% total forest area: n/a
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: 2,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: 0.4%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 0.9%
Total forest loss since 1990: 29,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:6.6%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:n/a
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 100%
None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 471,000 ha
Modified natural: 471,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: n/a
% of total forest cover: 0.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Above-ground biomass: 53 M t
Below-ground biomass: 13 M t
Area annually affected by
Fire: 150,000 ha
Diseases: 100,000 ha
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 140
Critically endangered: 0
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 154,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 718,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: n/a
More forest statistics for Gambia
In the past five years the situation in Gambia has changed. FAO figures show a net increase in forest cover, likely resulting from increased plantations. Nevertheless, Gambia no longer has any intact primary forests.
According to the World Resources Institute, 3.2 percent of Gambia's land area is under some form of protection. The country is home to 974 species of plants, 117 mammals, and 535 birds.
Traditional belief in mythical beasts help protect forests
(06/19/2012) Cultural practices including beliefs in mythical beasts and animals that dance have helped maintain forests in the West African country of the Gambia and Malaysian Borneo, said a researcher from Oxford University speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Bonito, Brazil.
Alarm rising over food crisis in Sahel region
(06/13/2012) Warnings over a possible famine in Africa's Sahel region are becoming louder and more intense. Abnormal drought, locally high food prices, and regional conflict have ramped up concerns that 18 million people could suffer from malnutrition and starvation as the lean season sets in. UNICEF says it needs $238 million to save over a million children from severe malnourishment in the region, but has to date only raised $93 million.
15 million facing food shortages in Africa's Sahel region
(03/29/2012) The UN announced yesterday that food security in the Sahel region is deteriorating, putting over 15 million people at risk. Ongoing drought combined with conflict, has pushed the region into a crisis. The situation appears eerily similar to last year when Somalia was hit by a devastating famine due to drought and political instability; the famine left an estimated 30,000 children dead.
U.S. Lacey Act, programs in Rwanda and Gambia, awarded for forest protection
(09/23/2011) Forest policies in the United States, Rwanda, and Gambia won U.N. backed awards for contributing to efforts to protect and sustainably manage forests.
Top forest policies recognized
(03/23/2011) 19 forest policies have been nominated for an award by the World Future Council, a global think tank.
How free trade has devastated Africa's farmers and poor
(02/15/2010) A push in the mid-1980s for Africa to embrace free trade to aid its economies backfired in many of the continent's poorest countries, argues a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Africa was pushed to rollback government involvement in development and instead to rely on the private sector: government services shrunk, cash crops were pushed over staples, while tariffs and subsides were abolished. The insistence on free trade was meant to spur economic growth, but instead undercut traditional agricultural systems that had worked for centuries, eventually leading to a food crisis, which left millions hungry, caused multiple food riots, and destabilized governments.
Indigenous people, forest communities in Africa control less than 2% of forest land
(05/28/2009) Less than 2 percent of Africa’s tropical forests are under community control, hindering efforts to slow deforestation and alleviate rural poverty, reports a new assessment from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of non-governmental and community organizations.
Goodbye to West Africa's Rainforests
(01/22/2006) West Africa's once verdant and extensive rainforests are now a historical footnote. Gone to build ships and furniture, feed hungry mouths, and supply minerals and gems to the West, the band of tropical forests that once extended from Guinea to Cameroon are virtually gone. The loss of West Africa's rainforests have triggered a number of environmental problems that have contributed to social unrest and exacerbated poverty across the region.
Suggested reading - Books
Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]
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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006