To secure Africa’s future, there’s need to reduce deforestation’s emissions

September 22, 2013

African countries are home to some of the world’s top forests cover and inDR Congo, we all know the history of Belgian Congo as thecountry was known before independence from Belgium and how its vast forests and mineral wealth led to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.Despite the decreasing forest cover in African countries there is need for continuous fight to better manage the continent environment. Africa is home to some of the most important forests in the world when it comes to ecosystem conservation and biodiversity and countless speciesfound especially in Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.The continent and its population have every reason to be proud of their incredible natural forests and species. Therefore, one would expect that the current political and technocratic class would be serious in engineering comprehensive efforts needed to ensure that this centuries old forests can be sustained and enjoyed by future generations as envisaged by the likes of Patrice Lumumba. An improved governance of forests would require extensive reforms in forest and land use licensing and management that have been glaringly absent in Congo forest.

The future of Democratic Republic of Congo famed valuable resources is in the hands of the Joseph Kabila government, private sector and Congolese public. In Kenya, the Mau forest is being reclaimed together with others has been gazetted as protected areas and cannot be used for other activities like human settlement. Mabira forest is the cornerstone of ecosystem and wildlife conservation in Uganda and has continued to provide millions of Ugandans with valuables that includefresh water, firewood, berries and local climate regulation. Experts define protected areas as the territorial expected to provide a safe haven for endangered animal and plant life, away from over-exploitation and disturbance.In most African countries, however, the reality seems different and there has been reports of massive deforestation with very little will of the current occupants of high offices to fight the menace. A recent study conducted in west, central and east African region found that protected areas have suffered significant deforestation between 1982 and 2012 losing more than 70% cover.When it comes to the status of the areas, the study showed that deforestation rates in nature and wildlife reserves were about threetimes as high as those in the tourism industry backbone areas like national and game parks. The different deforestation rates was due to the fact that national parks have been slightly better equipped with funds, human resources and technology compared to other protected areas.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, Virunga National park was twice better protected than its pristine forests a similar case with Tanzania’s Serengeti national park compared to Mufindi forest in south central Tanzania. The study assessed forest loss estimated to be 800,908 square kilometerscovered by natural forest in 2012. Forests have been cleared for human settlements and with logging concessions taking more than half the cover.The main deforestation in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda happened in land with small scale agriculture and there were also considerable deforestation rates in timber concessions. Past studies found timber removal was rampantlyallowed in protected areas in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. Another research conducted in Central African countries of Cameroon, DR Congo, Gabon Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan deforestation could be avoided if the political leadership and policy makers can educate the population on the need to conserve and manage the forests in protected areas irrespective of the status of forests whether production or conservation.Under Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya laws, logging concessions have to be managed sustainably and remain permanently forest-covered while in most Central African countries logging concessions do not have to be managed and therefore retaining forest cover is not a must. In Tanzania, logging concessions are well managed and that’s why the country has largely retained its forest cover compared to three decades ago.

In Kenya, protected areashave continuously functioned as wildlife habitats and host a wide range of forest species, as well as generate income for government forestry department while in Uganda companies and surrounding communities have benefited hugely from protected areas with National forestry Authority being the custodian of the forest on behalf of Ugandans.The remaining forests of equatorial Africa provide important wildlife habitats and are greatly valued by people for a range of products and services ranging flood buffering like in Western Uganda, temperature control in Nakuru and Nanyuki areas in Kenya, free source of bush meat as has been the case with Congolese refugees suffering from decades of war and unrest in their country, fish like the Lake Victoria and River Nile populations have depended on them for centuries. The future of Africa’s forest wildlife and the prevention of natural disasters would largely depend on preventing further forest loss in protected areas like Mabira, Mau, Congo forests and timber harvesting. There is a lot of work that need to be done by the governments and society in order to have a strong enough laws and policiesthat will prevent deforestation and degradation. For African countries to achieve those target will require an integrated forestland plan that will involve prevention of further conversion of the untouched forests. Authorities in Africa should ensure that development planning at local and national levels is comprehensively synergized. For African countries to secure the continent’s future economy they need to sustainably manage their forests.

Contador Harrison