By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
The African continent is surrounded by vast natural wealth in its dense tropical forest yet its people are desperately poor, environment experts say.
They have decried the 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 find a lasting solution to poverty, concluding ‘the forest if sustainably managed can drive Africa’s wealth so near’.
“If Africa is to be lifted from its plight, the forest sector must play a central role,” says Derek Berliner, Forest Ecology and Conservation expert, South Africa.
Environment and forest experts at the workshop were unanimous that but for changes to occur, poor governance issues that has 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 eradication 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 it is expected will then be able 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 equiped 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,” according to a document from the African Forest Forum.
It notes that the global community is now turning attention towards green growth pathways focused especially on forestry. African Forest Forum 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 continually adjust to the ever-changing environment that affects forests” Prof Godwin Kowero,AFF executive secretary.
According to AFF, a stronger response by governments, public organization and the private sector is needed in the drive for sustainable forest management to permit 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, the organization says.
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. The forests contribute 21% of the total global carbon stock 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 Comunity Management of Forest, abbreviated in french(REFACOF), an NGO based in Cameroon.