African forestry sector critical to climate change debate
-“Forests play a critical role in climate change,” FAO has said during the opening day of the first-ever joint meetings between the Near East Forestry Commission and the Africa Forestry and Wildlife Commission. “The Forestry sector, mainly deforestation in tropical areas, causes 17 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Sustainable forest management is a necessary component of a global strategy to combat climate change”, said Jan Heino, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry.
Trees are even more important in countries that do not have a large forest area. “The development of guidelines for best forestry practices in arid and semi-arid zones can be a significant step forward in the Near East region,” said Pape Djiby Koné, Senior Forestry Officer for the Near East.
The meetings in Khartoum are the largest single gathering in history of the heads of national forestry and wildlife agencies in the two regions. The wildlife experts will develop strategies to address the conflict between humans and wildlife, which destroy hundreds of hectares of food crops and claim human lives each year in Africa.
Over 80 percent of wood is used for energy in Africa, mainly for cooking and heating. In the Near East, most wood products are imported, and oil products are the main source of energy. The importance of forests in the energy strategies for countries in both regions will be addressed throughout the week of meetings in Khartoum, according to Heino.
Clean water is increasingly scarce in many parts of Africa and the Near East. The joint sessions will consider options for improving the conservation of water, with a focus on new approaches to watershed management that take into consideration the impact of human development activities in each watershed.
The role of wildfires
The commissions will also consider ways to improve the management of wildfires. “Africa accounts for about half of the area burned by wildfires throughout the world. As global temperatures rise, the need to manage wildfires increases,” according to Heino.
The joint meetings bring together about 160 participants from more than 50 countries, including Ministers, heads of national forestry and wildlife agencies, representatives from the private sector and non-governmental organizations, and United Nations experts. Discussions will emphasize ways to mobilize resources and ways to improve international cooperation to address these critical issues. The future based on sustainable use and protection of natural resources in both regions depends on the successful integration of economic development and environmental conservation.