The first Festival in 2018 was timed to coincide with the arrival of some 60 European guests  under the auspicies of International Nature Friends. This year, 2020 sees the conclusion but it leaves a lasting legacy with many friendships and developments formed.

Background concept

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Every two or three years since 1989 Naturefriends International (NFI) has proclaimed transfrontier and ecologically valuable and vulnerable regions as Landscapes of the Year.
The aim of the project is to organise a wide range of activities and encounters in the respective region. In cooperation with the population and the stakeholders (politicians, authorities, NGOs, etc.), the Naturefriends elaborate concepts for sustainable development and work on strategies for the future.

The aim is also to sensitize potential visitors of the region towards the project ideas, through offers in the field of sustainable tourism, such as the pilot trip “Tour d’Horizon”. Experiencing nature, getting informed about the region and its culture, meeting people and stakeholders – these are the core elements of a “Tour d’Horizon”.
On the occasion of the Opening event of the first African Landscape of the Year – Senegal/The Gambia, Naturefriends International, in cooperation with local Naturefriends and their partners, is going to organise a trip to Senegal and The Gambia. Naturefriends are cordially invited to take part in this event.

Landscape of the Year Senegal / Gambia: Heading for new shores!

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Accompanied by a colourful social programme, the first African Landscape of the Year will be officially inaugurated in January 2018. At the beginning of this month, Mamadou Mbodji, President of the African Naturefriends Network, and Ingeborg Pint, NFI consultant for Africa, travelled the region to coordinate the activities planned for the years 2018 and 2019 with locals.

The Landscape of the Year Senegal/Gambia is the first Landscape of the Year on the African continent and thus assumes a special position. As a pilot project of the Naturefriends movement, it aims to illustrate how international solidarity can be put into practice in specific activities in the region and thus be sustainably established.

The selected region lies on the edge of the Sahel zone and is already marked by the consequences of climate change. This is why climate justice plays a vital part in the planned activities. Accompanying activities in Europe aim at a broad involvement of European Naturefriends. Furthermore, Naturefriends journeys to the region intend to enable personal encounters and intensive exchange as well as foster gentle tourism in the region, which constitutes an important source of income for the local population.

Following the successful political changes in Gambia, this country is currently experiencing an atmosphere of renewal which is the perfect precondition for cross-border cooperation in the border area of the two countries and for the activities within the Landscape of the Year. On their exploratory tour, Mamadou Mbodji and Ingeborg Pint were welcomed with opened arms and the ideas for common activities were met with enthusiasm. The locals naturally hope to welcome many European guests to their home over the next years!

Despite its barrenness, the region offers many scenic beauties such as the green hills, Baobab groves and the Gambia River with its diverse fauna. Prehistoric stone circles and many traditional festivities that take place regularly in the villages count among the cultural highlights. Naturefriends from the region and their partners will share all of these highlights with their European friends over the next years - the first opportunity is from 11 to 25 January 2018, during the "Tour d'horizon", within the context of which the opening ceremony will also take place.

"As Naturefriends, we now have this great opportunity of taking a pioneering role and initiating new development in the region - marked by intercultural understanding, good neighbourhood and international solidarity," says Mamadou Mbodji. And European Naturefriends now have the opportunity of bringing the traditional values of our movement, such as internationality, solidarity and global justice, to life.

Ingeborg Pint and Andrea Lichtenecker, May 2017

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© Eve Andersson/Gambia Tourist Board

Nature and biodiversity conservation in the "Landscape of the Year"  

The region chosen as "Landscape of the Year 2018/2019 – Senegal-The Gambia" is located in the vicinity of Koungheul (Senegal) and Janjanbureh (The Gambia) – two cities on the border of the Sahel zone – and is marked by the impact of climate change. On the Senegalese side, the effects on vegetation and biodiversity are particularly evident. The Gambian side benefits from the Gambia River, which plays an important role in maintaining biodiversity. 

This is where the River Gambia National Park is situated, approximately 40 km southwest of Janjanbureh. It covers an area of 580 km2 and is an important biodiversity reserve. It is also known as the Baboon Islands, named after the endemic Guinea baboon (Papio papio). The predominant type of vegetation is the tropical gallery forest with an impressive variety of bird species. Access to the National Park is strictly regulated. The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) is a remarkable private project which is located there. Since the early 20th century there used to be hardly any chimpanzees living in the wild in The Gambia. Within the scope of CRP, this is where animals confiscated from illegal trade have been cared for since 1979, reaccustomed to a life in the wild and prepared for later release to the islands. The River Gambia National Park is characterized by an abundant avifauna and also other monkey species, hippos, warthogs and antelopes live there. 

The Kunikilling Forest Park, too, is of major importance from the point of view of biodiversity conservation. It is located about 5 km from Janjanbureh in an easterly direction; it is managed under State control and is open to the public. The Park is managed by the Forestry Department in partnership with the adjacent villages. The partnership aims at promoting sustainable forest resource management. Gentle tourism programs have also been initiated, which are designed to raise awareness among visitors of the need for protection and conservation of the forest area. Visitors can watch the rich avifauna on several hiking trails and from an observation platform. 

In the Senegalese part of the Landscape of the Year, the consequences of climate change, as well as of deforestation and bush fires have caused a dramatic decline of the typical forest-savannah. However, around Koungheul there are 131 hectares with four "Forêts classées". These are forests whose exploitation is regulated by the State. There is also the "Massif Communautaire de Mousdalifa", close to the border with the Gambia. Joint sensitization activities could be carried out there in the context of the Landscape of the Year, with a view to preventing bush fires and to avoid abusive deforestation. Naturefriends of Koungheul are also involved in the development of hiking trails to promote soft tourism.  

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