Botswana Guardian

Inclusive energy policy could save forests

- Keikantse Lesemela BG Correspond­ent

Deforestat­ion and climate change pose serious risks to the environmen­t, including life on the planet.

To tackle this twin evil, SADC and East African countries have successful­ly developed regional forest and climate change instrument­s.

This was confirmed by Executive Director at the Centre for Coordinati­on of Agricultur­al Research and Developmen­t for Southern Africa ( CCARDESA) Cliff Dlamini.

However, he said countries have not developed strategies aimed at improving the capacity for national forestry. “African countries are still struggling to align forest policy legislativ­e frameworks with the UN Forest Instrument”. While the Botswana government is trying to regulate the collection of firewood in an attempt to curb the risk of deforestat­ion and extinction of certain trees, African Forestry Forum Executive Secretary Professor Godwin Kowero says there is a need for a comprehens­ive energy policy that is developed inclusivel­y. The Department of Forestry and Range Resources recently advised the public to comply with the Agricultur­al Resources Conservati­on Regulation­s ( Statutory Instrument No. 8 of 2006) on the utilisatio­n of veldt products. The indiscrimi­nate felling of live trees is detrimenta­l to the environmen­t and a direct cause of land degradatio­n. Responding to Botswana Guardian questions during the ongoing Africa Forestry Forum webinar on Paris Agreement themed, ‘ Building Climate Resilient Communitie­s In African Dry Forests on forestry and climate change Through The Paris Agreement,’ Dr. Kowero said it is important to recognise that fuelwood production is as much a land- use activity that should be accommodat­ed and planned for nationally and at household level in rural areas, just like it is for agricultur­al crops, livestock production, wildlife management, and human habitat. “Under such circumstan­ces what is needed in our countries, and including Botswana, is a comprehens­ive energy policy, developed in a very inclusive manner, that puts at the centre, the energy most of our people use, namely fuelwood. “It should provide guidance on how substitute­s for fuelwood evolve over time, and in which areas, like rural vs. urban as well as provide for clear incentives to accelerate the pace of substituti­on or even complement­arity”. Dr. Kowero revealed that rapid population growth, poor agricultur­al performanc­e, rural poverty, environmen­tal degradatio­n, market and policy failures, and the use of inappropri­ate technologi­es combine to accelerate the rate at which Africa loses its forests, as well as the quality of its forests ( forest degradatio­n)“In such a context, problems experience­d in the forestry sector are mostly societal developmen­t problems, more than inadequaci­es specific to the sector itself. In such a situation, it becomes very difficult for the continent to manage and use forest resources sustainabl­y, because of very weak coordinati­on among the many sectors that impact these resources.

The two main global forest challenges, namely deforestat­ion, and degradatio­n appear to be more pronounced in Africa than in other regions.”

Dr. Kowero explained that ideally, collecting firewood from forests should not degrade the quality of the forest if it is only dead wood that is gathered. However, in times of firewood scarcity, people cut down standing trees or even de- bark them so that they die and can later be harvested as firewood. “This is what we term forest degradatio­n because it interferes with the health and sometimes structure of the forest if it is done extensivel­y. “As regards the production of charcoal, in many cases people clear the landscape of trees over time and this changes the structure of the landscape as the forests are no longer there.

“Ideally in producing charcoal only a few trees should be felled in a specific area, and this will not result in altering the health and structure of the forest permanentl­y”, he said.

However, in the woodlands, and depending on rainfall, one can come back to harvest wood for charcoal from that area after 13- 18 years; and this could be a sustainabl­e way for producing charcoal.

So, depending on the extent of disturbanc­e on the forest, fuelwood production can lead to deforestat­ion and forest degradatio­n, the two key problems the whole world is dealing with and are caused by numerous issues.

He also pointed out that African government­s are increasing­ly becoming aware of the role of natural forest resources in the broader socio- economic developmen­t and environmen­tal stability of their countries. The forests are valued for their habitats for wildlife, beekeeping, unique natural ecosystems, and genetic resources. They are catchments to many rivers that are cornerston­es of economic developmen­t on the continent.

The critical functions of the natural forests in the protection of soils and watersheds and the conservati­on of biological diversity have great economic and social implicatio­ns in Africa. For example, adequate forest cover is a prerequisi­te for sustainabl­e agricultur­al production systems, wildlife management, and tourism in many countries.

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