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International Bird Fair and Ecotourism Conference ends at Dalaba Eco Lodge in Gunjur

By Emil Gibba | 29 April 2024 | Gunjur


Eco Travel Gambia in collaboration with Gunjur Conservationist and Ecotourism Association (CETAG) on Saturday the 27th of April 2024 conducted the 5th Edition of the Gunjur International Bird Fair and Ecotourism Conference at Dalaba Eco Lodge. Various topics were discussed regarding protection of our biodiversity, environment, rebranding, creating, and promoting sustainable community tourism products.

 

The event registered the attendance of 56 participants which included tourism students from ITTOG, birders, a representative from the British High Commission and other key players in the tourism sector of The Gambia.

Some of the participants at the 5th Edition of Gunjur International Bird Fair and Ecotourism Conference

Speaking at the event, Mr Lamin Jassey underscored that “this gathering was organised so that the public and players in tourism sector are enlightened by conservationists on the challenges relating to conservation work in The Gambia and to discuss the way forward”. He highlighted that CETAG is an umbrella body of environmental organisations founded in 2020 that charged itself with the responsibility of protecting endangered marine species, key of which is the turtle population of the coast of Gunjur covering up to 10km under their watch, they also work on protecting the forest covers of Gunjur. He informed the audience on the different types of turtles that are present in Gunjur, which according to him are the green turtle (the most common one), loggerheads, leatherbacks turtle, etc which are usually hunted by human beings for food. Thus, their mission is to guard against such practices along the coast of Gunjur and through their intervention, they were able to place Gunjur as a volunteer and tourist destination for community and eco-tourism and as a research center on turtles for a lot of students from various universities.

 

Badara N. Bajo, Executive Director of the Gunjur Environment Group “GEPADG”, a long-standing environmentalist alluded to the fact that every information shared in this conference regarding environmental protection, eco and community tourism is significant. He expressed his joy of seeing young people in Gunjur taking the lead in bringing to live, environmental discourse of this kind, which allows him to take the back seat, having been at the forefront of environmental protection campaigns for over a decade. However, he didn’t spare a minute to express his disappointment that the conference did not register the presence of high government officials despite this year being the 5th edition.

GEPADG Executive Director, Badara N. Bajo speaking at the conference

Tamba Jefang; an environmental activist and a prolific birder, spoke on the state of nature and the challenges it faces. Mr Jefang made scary revelations about the shifting of our coastal birds to the interiors and Gambia losing its place as one of the world’s best birdwatching destinations. About “20, 18 or 15 years ago, the most common destinations for most of my birder friends was The Gambia, but now a lot are talking about Costa Rica, we are losing our place as one of the best distinctions for birdwatchers,” Mr Jefang revealed. Furthermore, Mr Jefang revealed that Senegal is also doing very well in attracting international birders. He went on to state that most of our coastal birds are migrating to the interior of the country due to human settlement expansions thereby producing great disturbance for most of the bird sanctuaries we have along the coast. On the way forward, he stated that “eco travel and environmental protection goes side by side and requires collaborative efforts of all stakeholders. “Sometimes, we think that The Gambia have nothing to show but we have a lot to show only if we collaborate and I admire the collaboration amongst environmentalists in Gunjur”. According to him, collaboration prevented the government from selling the Kotu wetland to foreign investors. On which note, Ahmed Manjang interjected and added that collaboration did also prevent the government from selling part of the Bijilo Wildlife Park well known as the Monkey Park to the American Embassy. To Tamba, collaboration is fundamental in achieving a positive outcome in many instances.

Other speakers at the event included Bubacarr Camara, a Senior Travel Consultant at My Gambia, on Community-based Tourism and Responsible Tourism, stating that this is an avenue to put money in the pockets of the locals. Lamin Jobaate spoke on The Effect of Anthropogenic on Bird Ecology of Kuto Creek and Nyang Njie, an Economists, spoke on Re-branding Destination Gambia.

 

Kawsu Jammeh, a Principal Officer at Parks and Wildlife Department, served as an antithesis to most of the attendees who blamed the government of being behind most of the environmental hazards we are experiencing today. He said, “I was sitting out there and I heard a lot of the speakers blaming the government, saying the government is not doing much, everyone you ask about what’s the problem of the country the person would say the government, so who is the government, what are you doing, the truth is we all in this country are doing nothing.” He was speaking on Biodiversity and Economic Development; thus, he drew the attention of the audience to how high poverty levels excerpt a lot of pressure on the forest resources and more so our forest is an open access resource that anyone can depend on for survival.

 

 Mr Jammeh went on to say that “we can predict the looming risk in the near future”, quoting Timbuktu as an example that was once rich in forest resources but now a desert until recent efforts to restore its forest cover. He also gave alternatives to how most of our development projects are designed, one example is instead of building one horticultural gardens where all women go an scramble for water why not give them access to water in their own backyards where they can be watering while overseeing their homes, instead for spending a lot of resources building fish ponds why not create protected fish breeding zones in our waters until maturity before they are released. For him, most of our development projects are wrongly designed.

 

The conference also featured question and answer session, in one of which, Claire Nicholas, a representative of the British High Commissioner asked, “what should be my take home to the office of the British High Commissioner in Banjul?” One sharp reply from one of the attendees was “don’t attempt to do what the American Embassy attempted to do with the Monkey Park”. But Tamba Jefang chose to reply; thus, “what you can take home is the question of how we empower these local communities to tell stories of the environmental activities happening around their communities. I know this community has a community radio and online TVs, empower these local media platforms to disseminate information related to environmental work. The national tv will not do that, we know the type of programs on QTV.”

 

The conference also offered the opportunity networking and for future collaboration between environmentalists and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.


The Black and White Cultural band of Gunjur provided the conference with entertainment.

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Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
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