International institutions, NGOs and States are making efforts to fight against the depletion of the global forest area as part of reforestation initiatives and protection regulations for forest areas. Unfortunately however, the fight is tough. In Africa, many forests are still under threat such as in Casamance, Senegal, and the efforts required to reduce the damage are sometimes huge.
The region with the highest number of forests in Senegal is Casamance, unfortunately however, it is under threat of depletion within the next two years, according to a study led by the former Senegalese minister of Environment, Haidar El Ali.
Located close to the Gambian border, on the extreme south of Senegal is the Medina Yoro Foula forest which has already lost more than a million trees since 2010, according to the study and the report also indicates that Gambian and Senegalese authorities are responsible for the worsening situation.
«The pillage of the Casamance forest has reached a point of no return and within two years, it will be too late» Haidar el Ali indicated to the press at the end of May 2016. «We are sounding the alarm. Senegal has lost more than a million trees since 2010 while the perpetrators based in Gambia have pocketed close to 140 billion CFA francs (21 million euros) through the export of trees to China where the demand for furniture has skyrocketed over the last few years».
The former minister of Environment, longstanding environmental activist, has a number of photographs and videos to support his revelations. He particularly makes mention of the boom in the import of wood from Africa based on statistics from the Chinese customs service, which has now attained the level of «pillage ». Smuggling, which according to him, is being perpetrated with the involvement of «forest loggers and Chinese mafia who are transforming our countries into deserts » and also by Gambians and Senegalese…
The destruction of forests poses the risk of drastically reducing soil fertility, as well as resulting in low rainfall which also impacts on agriculture and tourism and this is happening « in one of the poorest regions in the country », the environmental activist emphasizes. We must also not forget that the Casamance region has, since 1982, been faced with armed rebellion, led by the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) which has encouraged the smuggling…
We must not give up in the fight against this smuggling and over exploitation. «It is not an easy fight because there are huge interests at stake » Haidar El Ali emphasizes. «The Senegalese government is not putting in the effort » to stop the phenomenon added the former minister, who considers that it is « an issue of political will ».
Fortunately private initiatives are giving hope to the people of Casamance even if the Senegalese government does not appear to be aware of the scope of the issue and impending damage. In 2008, the Association for Environmental Protection in Senegal (APES) put in place the Casamance Ecoparc, a project which conducts research into plant species and plants threatened by extinction. Its objective is to safeguard more than 32 ha of forest through effective protection. As proposed by M. El Ali, the association also recommends the creation of «green lungs » of forest reserves in every village in Casamance. Students of the university of Ziguinchor could come to these forest reserves to study the fauna and flora in order to better understand and conserve them.
Augustin Diatta, the head of this project, aims at conserving a part of the endemic forest on the south west coast of Senegal, close to Diembereng in Basse Casamance. Augustin and his association « have already obtained legal rights to the forest and have therefore saved it from land speculation » the representatives of the project explained. They are calling for financial support to protect the forest in a sustainable manner. «It is about a winning partnership for our rural community – a winning partnership for nature, tourism and the economy » according to Augustin. Senegalese entrepreneur and owner of a tourist camp site in Casamance, he begun the Ecoparc project five years ago with support from his family and friends. «We consider the forest as sacred. In addition, its fruits have, for generations, given us significant nutritive and medicinal value. The forest also enables us attract responsible ecological tourism, which allows the local economy to grow » Augustin concluded.