By Elias Ngalame
Forest experts in Africa have reiterated the need to reinforce efforts in sustainable land use and forest management in the continent to secure a better future. The experts were speaking at a workshop organised by African Forest Forum (AFF) from June 6 to 10, 2022 at Pacific Hotel, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The regional workshop according to AFF was to share the conclusions and recommendations of studies conducted over the past three years as part of two funded projects, one by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the other by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Held under the theme “state of the African forest,” experts exchanged and shared information on the state of the African forest, the challenges and potential solutions.
According to Maries Louis Avana-Tientcheu of AFF, “the lives of many Africans depend on forest resources and therefore ensuring its sustainable management is guaranteeing the future of the population and especially those who directly survive from it.”
According to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), over two-thirds of Africa’s 600 million people rely directly and indirectly on forests for their livelihoods, including food security, thus the need to protect and preserve the continent’s rich forest resources.
Coming on the heels of the 27th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) known as COP27 in Egypt, the experts agreed it was time for forest stakeholders in Africa to be abreast with the intricacies of land use and forest management in order to find lasting solutions that will improve the livelihood of the population and especially those who depend on the forest for survival.
African Forest Forum is sensitizing its members and other forest stakeholders on the stakes of the upcoming COP27 in Egypt.
“This is very important for us because it is taking place in Africa and it is an opportunity for forest stakeholders in the continent to make maximum benefits of the COP27,” says Maries Louis Avana-Tientcheu.
According to statistics from CIFOR, Africa has an estimated 624 million ha of forest, 98 .8 per cent of which are natural forests. Forests types and cover include rainforests and other humid forests; dryland forests; savannahs and woodlands; mountain forests; mangrove forests; and plantations.
Unfortunately, Africa’s forest sector is, however, faced with many challenges that constrain its capacity to provide meaningful and sustainable ecosystem services including contributing to socio-economic development.
The continent’s forest area declined by 2 .8 million ha per year between 2010 and 2019, a much higher rate than anywhere else in the world, the CIFOR report says. Environment experts have therefore not ceased reiterating the need for restraint in land and forest use by governments and other stakeholders.
Cameroon for example counts about 22.5 million hectares of humid forests with deforestation of over 0.8% per year between 2000 and 20016, according to statistics from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife.
Forest experts say in a fragmented context where forestry policies compete with other development sectors’ policies whose implementation involves deforestation or forest degradation, a better understanding of the socio-economic importance of forests and their effective incorporation in national accounts are key pieces of information in determining policy options on land use allocation.
“Forest Stakeholders need to understand the socio-economic importance of the forest to guide their decision making and policy formulation,” says Achile Baudelaire Momo, Consultant at World Resource Institute, Yaounde.
“There is a need for win-win solutions which we can and must scale up, to feed the world without destroying our forests,” he noted.
At the XV World Forestry Congress last month in Seoul, Korea, forest experts emphasized the need for stakeholders to overcome setbacks and drive solution-oriented policies to protect forest resources.
“No matter which crises we are facing – a pandemic, conflicts, climate change – and their resulting economic recession and food insecurity, we must consider our forests and our natural resources as part of the solution and integrate them into recovery plans and strategies.” Says Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, FAO.
The African Forest Forum (AFF), also known as African Forestry Forum, it should be recalled, is an association of individuals who are committed to advancing the sustainable management, use and conservation of the forest and tree resources of Africa for the socio-economic wellbeing of its peoples and for the stability and improvement of its environment.
The purpose of the forum is to provide a platform and create an enabling environment for independent and objective analysis, advocacy and advice on relevant policy and technical issues.
The goal is to galvanize the African voice and opinion and mobilize resources on forestry and related issues that cut across countries and regions with a view of enhancing the relevance and contribution of forestry to the people of Africa and their environment.