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The 5th International Bird Fair and Eco-tourism Conference Marks a Milestone in Gunjur

My Magazine 2024/05
6 min
The 5th International Bird Fair and Eco-tourism Conference, held at Dalaba Eco Lodge in Gunjur, showcased a collaborative effort towards environmental protection and sustainable tourism. Organized by Eco Travel and CETAG in partnership with MyGambia, Dalaba Eco Lodge, and the Center for Climate Action, Environment, and Marine Research.

The event gathered eco-lodge owners, ITTOG students and staff, representatives from the British High Commission, environmentalists, journalists, and activists.

The conference addressed crucial topics, including biodiversity protection, rebranding Gambia as a destination, and community-based and sustainable tourism. Various speakers took time to shed light on significant issues and initiatives.

A veteran environmentalist, Badara N Bajo is the Executive Director of Gunjur Environmental Group (GEPADG). In his keynote remarks, he reflected on the environmental protection journey of GEPADG, highlighting both successes and challenges.

Mr Bajo expressed concern about the low turnout from the local community and government officials at such an important conference addressing critical environmental issues.
He stressed the importance of local and governmental involvement in environmental initiatives to ensure their success and sustainability.

Reflecting on GEPADG's environmental protection journey, Mr.Bajo acknowledged the organization's achievements in safeguarding Gunjur's natural resources, mentioning successful campaigns, conservation projects, and community engagement efforts that have made a positive impact on the environment.

However, Bajo also recognized the challenges that GEPADG has faced, including limited resources, bureaucratic hurdles, and a lack of widespread awareness about environmental issues.
He stressed the need for continued support and collaboration from both the local community and government to overcome these challenges and achieve long-term environmental sustainability.

Mr Lamin Jassey, an executive member of the Gunjur Conservationist and Eco-tourism Association (CETAG), detailed their role as an umbrella body for environmental protection associations in Gunjur, focusing on their efforts to safeguard sea turtles from extinction through scientific research, education, and tourism.

He outlined their comprehensive approach to safeguarding sea turtles from extinction, which involves scientific research, education, and tourism.

Mr. Jassey elaborated on the scientific research aspect, explaining how CETAG conducts studies to better understand sea turtle populations, their habitats, and the threats they face. This research enables them to implement effective conservation strategies tailored to the specific needs of the local turtle species.

According to Lamin, education also plays a significant role in CETAG's efforts. Mr. Jassey described how they work with schools, community groups, and tourists to raise awareness about the importance of sea turtle conservation. He lamented that workshops, presentations, and outreach programs aim to foster a culture of environmental stewardship and inspire action to protect these vulnerable creatures.

Mr. Tamba Jefang, a seasoned birdwatcher and environmental activist, stressed the importance of birds in the ecosystem, urged youths to consider birdwatching as a viable livelihood, and stressed the need for attitudinal change to solve environmental problems like littering.

Mr. Jefang underlined the importance of birds as indicators of ecosystem health, highlighting their role in pollination, pest control, and seed dispersal. He stressed that preserving bird populations is essential for maintaining the balance of ecosystems and ensuring biodiversity.

Encouraging youths to explore birdwatching as a career path, Mr. Jefang outlined the potential economic opportunities in eco-tourism and wildlife conservation. He stressed that birdwatching can provide sustainable income opportunities while fostering a deeper appreciation for nature among young people.

In his concluding remark, Mr. Jefang addressed the issue of littering and other environmental problems, emphasizing the need for attitudinal change. He stressed that individuals must take responsibility for their actions and adopt more sustainable behaviours to reduce pollution and preserve the environment for future generations.

During his presentation, Mr. Bubacar Camara, a senior travel consultant at MyGambia, elaborated on the benefits of community-based and responsible tourism management for economic, cultural, and environmental development in The Gambia.

Mr. Camara stated that community-based tourism allows local communities to actively participate in and benefit from tourism activities. He narrated that involving communities in decision-making processes and revenue-sharing mechanisms helps distribute economic benefits more equitably and alleviates poverty in rural areas.

Furthermore, Mr. Camara highlighted the cultural advantages of community-based tourism, noting that it provides opportunities for tourists to engage with local traditions, customs, and lifestyles. This cultural exchange enriches both visitors and hosts, fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.

Regarding environmental development, Mr. Camara stressed the importance of responsible tourism practices in minimizing negative environmental impacts. He outlined strategies such as waste management, energy conservation, and the protection of natural habitats, which are integral to sustainable tourism development.

In his concluding statement, Mr. Camara stated that community-based and responsible tourism management not only stimulates economic growth but also preserves cultural heritage and protects the environment. He said that by promoting this approach, The Gambia can achieve holistic development that benefits both present and future generations.

In his speech, Mr Nyang Njie, a macroeconomist, public policy consultant and business development manager, discussed strategies for rebranding and attracting foreign investment to enhance tourism. He suggested leveraging iconic sites such as Kunta Kinteh Island and influential figures like African American activist Colin Kaepernick as brand ambassadors to increase visibility and attract visitors to The Gambia.

Mr Njie emphasized the potential of Kunta Kinteh Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a critical attraction for cultural tourism. He proposed promoting the island's historical significance and connections to the transatlantic slave trade to appeal to both heritage tourists and those interested in African history.

Furthermore, Mr. Njie highlighted the importance of utilizing influential figures like Colin Kaepernick to enhance The Gambia's tourism brand. He stated that by partnering with well-known personalities who advocate for social justice and African heritage, The Gambia can attract a diverse audience and align itself with global movements for change.

Mr.Njie also pointed to successful examples from other countries, such as Ghana and Jamaica, which have effectively marketed their destinations and increased visitor numbers through strategic branding initiatives. He suggested that The Gambia could learn from their approaches and adapt similar strategies to promote tourism growth.

Mr Nyang Njie suggested and emphasized the importance of leveraging cultural heritage, influential figures, and successful branding tactics to reposition The Gambia as a must-visit destination for international travellers.

Mr. Lamin Jobarteh, the Executive Director of the West African Bird Study Association (WABSA), addressed the impact of anthropogenic changes on bird ecology around Kotu Creek during his presentation.

Mr. Jobarteh highlighted how human activities such as urbanization, pollution, and habitat destruction have significantly affected bird populations and ecosystems around Kotu Creek. He emphasized the importance of preserving this critical habitat, which serves as a vital stopover and breeding ground for numerous bird species.

Proposing solutions to address these anthropogenic changes, Mr. Jobarteh suggested implementing conservation measures such as habitat restoration, pollution control, and sustainable land management practices. He stressed the need for collaborative efforts involving local communities, government agencies, and conservation organizations to protect and restore the ecological balance of Kotu Creek and surrounding areas.

Furthermore, Mr. Jobarteh emphasized the importance of raising awareness among the public about the importance of bird ecology and the consequences of anthropogenic activities. He proposed educational programs, community outreach initiatives, and eco-tourism activities as ways to engage people in conservation efforts and foster a culture of environmental stewardship.

Mr. Lamin Jobarteh stressed the urgent need to address anthropogenic changes threatening bird ecology around Kotu Creek and outlined practical solutions to preserve this vital habitat for future generations.

During his speech, Mr. Kawsu Jammeh, Principal Officer for Parks and Wildlife, highlighted the significance of biodiversity and its crucial role in economic development for The Gambia.

Mr. Jammeh underscored that The Gambia's rich biodiversity, including its diverse flora and fauna, provides the foundation for various economic activities such as tourism, agriculture, and fisheries. He highlighted how the country's natural resources contribute to income generation, employment opportunities, and overall economic growth.

Mr. Jammeh stressed the importance of sustainable management and conservation of biodiversity to ensure its long-term benefits for the nation. He outlined the need for policies and practices that balance economic development with environmental protection, ensuring that natural resources are utilized to preserve their value for future generations.

Additionally, Mr. Jammeh emphasized the role of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem services such as clean air and water, soil fertility, and climate regulation, which are essential for human well-being and livelihoods. He noted that investing in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use not only safeguards these services but also enhances resilience to environmental challenges such as climate change.

Mr. Kawsu Jammeh's presentation highlighted the importance of recognizing and harnessing the economic potential of The Gambia's biodiversity while emphasizing the need for responsible stewardship to ensure its continued prosperity and sustainability.

In his concluding remark, Omar Manjang, the auditor general of CETAG, expressed gratitude to all participants, speakers, and organizers for their contributions to the event's success.

He emphasized the importance of collective action in addressing environmental challenges and promoting sustainable tourism in Gunjur and beyond. Mr. Manjang reiterated CETAG's commitment to continued collaboration with partners and stakeholders to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity, and promote responsible tourism practices for the benefit of present and future generations.

The conference featured engaging discussions, question-and-answer sessions, and cultural interludes from the Black and White Culture group from Gunjur.

The event concluded with the presentation of certificates to participants and speakers, recognizing their contributions to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. The 5th International Bird Fair and Eco-tourism Conference was innovative and essential to our collective actions in preserving Gambia's natural heritage and promoting responsible tourism.

If you are interested in bird-watching or volunteering in Gunjur, click on the button below and send your inquiry.


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