Africa’s forestry cover is fast increasing courtesy of farmer’s regeneration efforts, a forestry expert revealed on Friday.
Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary of African Forestry Forum (AFF), noted that despite having less natural forest cover and climate change effects, farmers have inculcated the idea of planting trees in their farms, hence replenishing the overall tree cover in the continent.
“The adoption of agro-forestry has become a great achievement in increasing tree cover away from demarcated forest areas in Africa,” Kowero told reporters in Nairobi.
Kowero said agro-forestry has picked up in East African countries where forests are found in highly populated areas where people grow trees alongside crops.
Kowero noted that in 1990-2012, Niger farmers planted 5 million hectares trees on their farms hence regenerating the degraded land.
“Farmers in the continent have since realized the potential of fruit trees that are currently being grown in large numbers besides other fast maturing trees that are grown for commercial purposes,” he noted.
He, however, admitted that tree cover is diminishing in the government owned public forests due to poor management and lack of private sector involvement yet forest and tree resources have an immense potential to contribute to social and economic development of the continent.
“Africa needs to privatize its forestry sector to help replenish the fluctuating forest cover that is mainly due to deforestation and degradation,” he added.
He revealed that following the economic reforms in late 1980s that moved forest activities to the hands of private investors, the pace of regeneration reduced in government owned forests.
Kowero said the rate of afforestation went down as some countries failed to get potential private investors, a move that led to low wood production as demand outstripped production.
Kowero said that due to lack of private investors, most governments are now devolving forest management to local communities but due to lack of skills and finance, there is slow take-off in the sector.
The official called on governments to invest in afforestation program to help improve water catchment areas and also absorb carbon in the fight against rising climate change.
“There is need to embark on massive afforestation program to mitigate against climate change through reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and also create employment for the unemployed youths,” he said.
He suggested that farmers grow useful trees that grow faster after harvesting to sustain tree cover.
Kowero attributed the current afforestation trend to civil society for mobilizing communities in the continent into taking action in the protection of forests.
He revealed that the African Union Commission has embarked in developing a sustainable forestry management program for the continent.
He said the Sustainable Forestry Management Framework (SFMF) will help guide all African countries in the planning of their forest activities with the aim of accruing benefits from the sector.