CIFOR : To preserve ecosystems, intra-Africa trade must improve, says CIFOR scientist
NAIROBI (Landscape News) – As Africa experiences rapid population growth and development, demand for forest products within the continent is on the rise.
This demand has amplified trade, especially within the informal sector where there is no control or monitoring, leading to potentially damaging results for the environment.
In the past, most demand on Africa’s forests was from foreign markets, with the informal sector supplying domestic and national markets using practices that would be considered illegal by international standards, according to Richard Eba’a Atyi, an expert on African forestry management and economics with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Already the extent of deforestation and land degradation amount to almost a third of Africa’s landmass. Without implementation of good practices and transparent trade, this puts Africa’s forests at a greater risk.
Eba’a Atyi, originally from Cameroon and with more than 30 years in the field, shared his views, shedding light on one of the topics under discussion at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Nairobi.
Q; How important are Africa’s forests?
A: Our forests are very important for the rest of the world because we have the second biggest forest base in Africa, the Congo Basin Forest. When you are thinking of global climate change or stability, certainly, we have a bigger role to play for the benefit of the whole world. But these forests are also very important for ourselves — we should always have these two aspects in mind. Our wealth — and the fact that we are contributing to stabilizing world climate through our forests. And as such we should also get support from the whole world so that we maintain, manage and preserve our forests.
Q: In your 30 years of experience working with forests, what are some of the major changes that you have seen?
A: At the beginning, at least in Congo Basin and Central Africa, forests were first seen as obstacles to agriculture, and land covered by forests was considered at least by politicians as lands free to be converted to other uses.
Thereafter, the forest was seen as a potential economic asset for developing industries in Central Africa, like forest industries for the processing of timber. And more or less by then it was a matter of the private sector and governments taking concessions.
As we go on, there was a bigger change in forestry in favor of the involvement of local stakeholders in forest management, involving the communities and local populations. In the last 10 years, more attention is being given to forest conservation highlighting the role of forests in climate change and mitigation; so that is more or less how it has changed.