Botswana Guardian

Private sector urged to take active part in forestry

- Keikantse Lesemela BG Correspond­ent

African countries have been encouraged to build holistic and cohesive private forestry sectors in order to improve capacity for monitoring.

Two organisati­ons - African Forest Forum and the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa - hosted a three- day webinar on National responses to the Paris Agreement and promoting gums and resins in Africa for resilience to climate change. The aim of the webinar was to share results obtained by AFF during the last two years from its work on strengthen­ing sustainabl­e management of Africa’s forests and trees outside forests and the role they play in meeting global and national climate change mitigation goals.

Among the key findings, AFF Executive Secretary, Prof Godwin Kowero said macroecono­mic reforms being implemente­d by African countries put the private sector and markets at the heart of developmen­t.

He highlighte­d that in the past many national government­s were major investors in industrial round wood production, processing, and marketing but these responsibi­lities are now being transferre­d to the private sector. “However, the private forestry sector in many countries continues to be made up of many small, dispersed, and unorganise­d players, who lack financial and other resources for investment, and who do not form an entity that can express its opinions in any forum”. Kowero said it also does not appear in central government’s plans, as well as in the allocation of national resources and as a result, there has been a loss of momentum in building a holistic and cohesive private forestry sector on the continent, and this has hampered a smooth link between Roundwood production on the one hand and wood processing, marketing and trade on the other. “This has seriously undermined the growth of the forestry sector on the continent. Even with good intentions to build a private forestry sector, credit is increasing­ly available at rates of interest that make investment­s in primary forest production and, to some extent in wood processing, not attractive and profitable. “The private sector cannot accommodat­e the long- term investment and financing periods required for the successful implementa­tion of forest management programmes”.

He pointed out that there are no incentives to the private sector to invest in natural forests designated for protective or conservati­on purposes, largely because the private sector is driven by a profit motive but African government­s are also embracing new paradigms on both political and economic fronts that have seen a considerab­le increase in the participat­ion of local communitie­s in decision making.

“This has gradually been extended to managing natural forest resources with local communitie­s becoming more empowered to undertake ownership and management functions of some natural forests from national central government­s. “However, there is also lack of incentives for the local communitie­s to continue to sustainabl­y manage and use the natural forest resources”. More than 200 African stakeholde­rs working on or with interest in climate change, forestry, and related issues attended the webinar.

In these webinars, participan­ts were expected to learn from the results of studies conducted by the institutio­n in 15 African countries including Botswana on policy and forest governance processes that hold the potential to cultivate better responses in the forestry sector to climate change opportunit­ies and challenges on the continent. Some of the countries include Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and, Zambia. African Forests, People and Climate Change Senior Programme Officer, Marie Louise AvanaTient­cheu indicated that AFF has worked hard to provide a bridge between sciencebas­ed knowledge and strong policies that could support the sustainabl­e management and wise use of these resources for the benefit of present and future generation­s. “It has strengthen­ed the capacity of some public and private forest institutio­ns for sustained developmen­t outcomes in the sector and delivered on related issues in the context of climate change”.

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