The West African country of The Gambia is prone to flooding and coastal erosion. The River Gambia, which passes through it, is both a source of livelihoods for communities and at the same time can become an environmental hazard severely affecting the capital, Banjul, and almost half the country.
Better ecosystems management can help address this challenge. To this end, the Global Environment facility supported a UN Environment-led project titled Adoption of an Ecosystems Approach for Integrated Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements at National and Divisional Levels.
The “ecosystems approach” to natural resource planning was applied in the pilot villages of Darsilameh and Tumani Tenda.
This approach applies systems thinking to gain a better understanding of how ecosystems function. Systems thinking is the use of various techniques to study and understand systems of many kinds. In nature, examples of the objects of systems thinking include living systems in which various levels interact (cell, organ, individual, group, organization, community, earth). The approach contributes to people’s everyday life by identifying potential solutions to environmental issues, such as soil erosion, thus enhancing community livelihoods.
In order to mitigate flooding and soil erosion, the targeted pilot villages implemented soil conservation, mangrove planting, land reclamation, water resource management and forest protection activities.
Under the project, Village Development Councils, as well as agriculture, natural resource and environment sub-committees, were set up, and local community organizations were involved in implementation. This led to the design of community action plans and the carrying out of conservation activities. The plans have helped the two villages mobilize additional cooperation with other international organizations.
A 2016 evaluation found that the planning and training of officials in the two villages generated tangible improvements, as it provided these communities with the necessary experience and expertise in local development.
The project allowed the communities of the two pilot villages to learn about the ecosystems approach and gain practical experience in various conservation techniques. As a result, the recent evaluation concluded that achievements of the pilots in Darsilameh and Tumani Tenda have the potential to be replicated as they validate an approach that provides guidance for community-driven coastal zone management and climate change adaptation activities, both of which are critical in a country that is low-lying with 50 per cent of its territory susceptible to flooding.
However, to achieve this goal further work is needed to disseminate the case studies and finance their replication.
The Gambia is a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The project has developed the ability of local government officials to bring about change in line with these conventions.
More about the project
In 2009, the Global Environmental facility provided US$ 493,000 to finance the Adoption of an Ecosystems Approach for Integrated Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements at National and Divisional Levels project.
The project aimed to strengthen the national institutional framework for integrated management of global environmental priorities, and integrate global environmental issues into divisional level planning and implementation.
The National Environmental Agency managed the project for six years.
For further information please contact Adamou Bouhari: Adamou.Bouhari[at]unep.org
This article was originally published by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in January, 2017.