At least one hundred and forty-one (141) hectares of community forest parks have been encroached and lost to housing development in West Coast Region (WCR) alone.
The Voice Newspaper investigations have discovered that up to four communities within WCR have lost their community forest parts due to intrusion and sales of these reserved forest parts which were gazetted more than ten (10) years back.
The sale of parts or whole of these community forest parks for residential and commercial development has generated general outcry and condemnation among the population and forestry officials, who are with believing that the continuous loss of the forest is partly responsible for the increase in natural disasters in the country as experiencing recently.
Our findings revealed further that among the community forest parks that have been intruded and sold out to housing agents and developers included the WenduNette Community Park at Kasa Kunda, Badara Faye Community Forest at Busura, Bonsai Community Forest of Nyofelleh, and Kotobali Community Forest at Manduar. At Manduar, encroachers have demarcated and sold out part of Kotobali Community Forest measuring 100 hectares, an act that was allegedly committed by the village Alkalo, Jerreh Bojang, and the community’s erstwhile members of the village development committee (VDC).
Member of the Manduar Community Forest and the new Village Development Committee (VDC) have since filed a case against the act of the Alkalo and Co. The case was first mentioned in court last November 2021 and is expected to resume at the Brikama Magistrate court last month, 27th June 2022, before Magistrate Isatou Darboe.
At WenduNette Community Forest in Kasa Kunda, 33 hectares were intruded allegedly by six accused namely Bakary Sanneh, Momodou Jawo, Bakary Gomez, Malang Jarju, Sunkaru Badjie, and Saikou Badjie. The case has been filed before the Brikama Magistrate Court, too, by the Kasa Kunda Community and was first mentioned in court in September 2019. It is currently under the purview of Magistrate Omar Cham and is expected to proceed on 24th July 2022.
Busura Badara Faye Community Forest Park in Kombo Busura has also suffered the same fate, 2 hectares are said to have been intruded by one Badara Faye of Talokoto. The Busura Community Forest Committee and the Busura Community summoned the accused to court in November 2021, and the matter is currently before Magistrate Peter Odochie and the case will proceed on the 16th of July 2022.
Bonsai CF in Nyofelleh Medina is not spare in two separate cases; 2 hectares and 4 hectares of the community forest have been intruded and sold out to real estate developers and residential dwellers. In the 2 hectares case, Nyofelleh Medina Alkalo plus three others from SinchuWurry village have been accused of the act of intrusion. The matter was under the purview of magistrate A. Mendy and is expected to proceed on the 21st of July 2022.
While in the hectares case of Lang Bentu Family of Sanyang Jabangkunda including Basiru Jabang, Malang Jabang, and Pa Jabang are allegedly said to have sold out the 2 hectares. Nyofelleh Medina Community Forest Committee and Nyofelleh Medina Community have since filed a case against the Jabang family and the matter is expected to proceed at the Brikama Magistrate Court on the 24th of July, 2022.
One expert who spoke to this on condition of anonymity said poverty, the growing desire of the housing agents and developers to acquire prime lands not far from the major towns and cities will continue to poised challenges to the survival of community forest around the Kombo and Kanifing Municipality.
He strongly condemned petitioning, demarcation, and illegal sales of community forests in the country, arguing that community forests are acquired through a lengthy process before being endorsed, approved, and gazette. He called on the government to strengthen its position in protecting and empowering community forest initiatives, as this will help the communities to regain their lost forest thus creating economic livelihoods for people who depend on the forest.