NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The African continent is surrounded by vast natural wealth in its dense tropical forest yet its people are desperately poor, environment experts say.
The scientists have decried the absurdity of being so close to natural wealth, but so far from its benefits, a situation that can be changed for the better if forest resources are sustainably managed.
At a regional training workshop at Safari Club, Nairobi-Kenya May 20th, 2019 under the theme; ‘sustainable forest management and leadership for policy makers in Africa’ participants highlighted the need for the continent to find a lasting solution to poverty, concluding that ‘if sustainably managed, forests can drive Africa’s wealth so near’.
“If Africa is to be lifted from its plight, the forest sector must play a central role,” said Derek Berliner, Forest Ecology and Conservation expert, South Africa.
Environment and forest experts at the workshop were unanimous that for changes to occur, poor governance issues that have plagued the forest sector for generations must end, along with the flow of illegal timber that still saturates European and Asian markets.
African leaders and policy makers have to be empowered with skills to grasp the scale of the challenge, to improve forest management as pathway to better address poverty and environmental protection in Africa.
It is against this backdrop that this capacity building workshop was organized, targeting policy leaders, institutions, individual including farmers and farmer organizations.
The trained forest actors are expected to design and implement forestry strategies and policies that will make a difference in sustainable forest management in Africa while responding to new and emerging issues.
“Policy makers from institutions need to be equipped with extra set of leadership skills to improve the performance of the forest sector and help the continent realize its full economic and social potential while responding to a number of global environmental issues that have emerged and having a significant bearing on Forestry in Africa,” reads part of a document by the African Forest Forum (AFF).
It notes that the global community is now turning attention towards green growth pathways with focus particularly on forestry. AFF officials say this goal can best be achieved if the different stakeholders are better equipped with the knowledge to play their role.
“Building capacities will permit policy makers to continually adjust to the ever-changing environment that affects forests,'' said Prof Godwin Kowero, the AFF Executive Secretary.
According to AFF, a stronger response by governments, nongovernmental organization and the private sector is needed in the drive for sustainable forest management to allow Africa make the best out of its rich forest resources.
Africa’s current forest cover of 624 million hectares (23% of land area) represents natural capital that supports rural livelihoods, national economies, and has considerable potential in the global economy, according to AFF.
The African forest ecosystems are also characterized by high biodiversity and endemic species as well as non-timber forest products with an appreciable annual value of trade. At least 21% of the total global carbon stock is held in forests.
Experts say they are hopeful Africa can reap far better from its rich forest resources if the different stakeholders work in synergy for the interest of everyone.
“Africa can do better if we work hand in glove. Policy makers, civil society, private sector and other actors should know that sustainable forest management is the way to go,” says Cecile Ndjebet of the African Women's Network for Community Management of Forest, abbreviated in French (REFACOF).