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Gambia - Main Details

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


With its characteristic Sudano-Savanna woodland vegetation type, ecosystems of Gambia include closed and open woodlands, plantations, tree and shrub savannas, and wetlands. The wetlands of Gambia cover almost 20% of the total land area of the country. Of this, 6.4% is mangrove forest, 7.8% is uncultivated swamps and 3.2% cultivated. Wetlands are increasingly being used for rice cultivation and for dry season grazing for livestock and they provide the main breeding and nursery areas for the main commercial fish species. Many species of wildlife are totally dependent on wetlands including the rare and threatened West African Manatee, the clawless Otter and the Sitatunga antelope. The forest ecosystem has dramatically changed in the last two to three decades from a dense and highly diverse biological environment to its present degraded state. The species diversity of Gambia includes 125 mammals, 566 birds, 74 reptiles, 33 amphibians, 627 fishes, and 173 butterflies. Agriculture is the main source of food for the population and the major foreign exchange earner. 52% of the total land area is arable, 28% to 36% of which is cultivated annually. However, due to overgrazing and poor farming practices, the loss of soil through erosion is estimated at 12.5 tons per hectare per year. Loss and fragmentation of habitats due to deforestation, wetland drainage and infrastructural development also constitute direct threats to Gambia’s biodiversity. Certain fish species such as the lobster, shark, catfish, and the white grouper are threatened as a result of unsound exploitation.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Several protected areas have been established, including 6 national parks and nature reserves, 66 forest parks and one Ramsar site. The Gambia is in the final stages of designating Tanbi Wetlands Complex and Niumi National Park as additional Ramsar sites. The national Parks and nature reserves cover a total area of 4.09% of the national territory.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Forests cover 43% of the national territory. Woodlands account for 10% of that area and the remainder consists of savanna woodlands and mangroves, which are found along the Gambia River. The mangrove forest cover is estimated at 453,000 ha.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The Gambia has identified a wide variety of principles and targets, including sector specific goals. To achieve the long-term goals (that aim to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and ensure the protection and sustainable use of its components), several specific operational objectives have been established in relation to: in-situ and ex-situ conservation; assessment and monitoring; alien species; scientific and technical capacity; public awareness; cooperation; legal, policy and administrative measures; local knowledge and practices; and synergies between related Conventions and Treaties.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Strategies and plans have been incorporated into the Agriculture and Natural Resources Sector, Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) and a national biodiversity policy framework is being developed. Many species are now legally protected, including the Senegalese long tail parakeet, the common hippo, the Sitatunga, the manatee and nitrogen fixing trees such as Accacia albida. Sustainable farming techniques are in use and sustainable fishing techniques are being deployed. In addition, forest clearance and conversion into farmlands is discouraged. The forestry and wildlife laws both prohibit unregulated trade in all species of fauna and flora irrespective of status in accordance with CITES. Appropriate legislative measures to prevent the introduction of alien invasive species into the agricultural ecosystem have been enacted. Legislative measures on ballast water discharge are almost finalized and fisheries legislation on the release of fish in aquaculture facilities is in place. Import and Export regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of alien invasive species in drylands can be found in relevant sectoral legislations such as forestry, fisheries, and wildlife. Wildlife and Forestry programmes and activities put emphasis on traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities as they relate to protected areas and forest parks in different ecosystems. Finally several activities have been prohibited in order to protect biodiversity, such as the use of inappropriate fishing gear, the burning of charcoal, and the exploitation of certain animal and plant species.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Before the CBD, the protected area coverage was 3.7%, which steadily increased to its present level of 4.09%. The Tanbi wetland complex and Niumi National Park, as important stands of mangroves along the West African Coast, have been given protected area status. A Programme to encourage the creation of community and private nature reserves and other categories of PAs is on course. Plans are in the pipeline to elaborate and or update management plans for existing protected areas. Plans are underway to accord Man And Biosphere Reserve (MAB) status to Niumi National Park, Baobolon wetland Reserve and Tanbi wetland Complex with the assistance of IUCN and UNESCO (MAB) offices in Dakar. There is an ongoing Integrated Coastal And Marine Biodiversity Management (ICAM) project to determine the status of and protect manatees, turtles and dolphins. Already, community representatives and protected area staff have been trained in species and habitat assessment and monitoring.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Mechanisms have been put in place to allow the participation of those who retain and utilize traditional knowledge in the decision-making process. Such mechanisms include the National Farmers Platform, the National Livestock Farmers Association, and the National Association of Traditional Medicine Practitioners. The NGO Affairs Agency is collaborating with National and International NGOs through MOUs and other agreements to promote the participation of local communities in decision making through training and other forms of skills development. Even though the country has not developed national-scale mechanisms, isolated initiatives are conducted to increase participation of women in the decision-making processes. An example of this is women working in the artisanal fisheries sector who are trained in the techniques of fish smoking, drying, processing and marketing.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme