Africa’s Rapidly Declining Forests May Soon Get Some Respite

By  |  March 15, 2019

Approximately 58,000 square miles of forests are being lost to deforestation every year in Africa, contributing to climate change. The cutting of trees has also wreaked havoc on the region’s biodiversity. The slashing and burning of forests have destroyed huge tracks of trees and increased human-wildlife conflict.

In late 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 mn hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. Africa lost about 34 million hectares of its forests between 2000 and 2010. Nearly a decade later the situation is worsening. Unlike other regions of the world, deforestation in Africa is associated with human activity. 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses firewood for cooking, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources.

Also, 90 per cent of all deforestation across Africa is being caused by agricultural development alone. People are clearing forests to plant crops. The condition has over time worsened owing to unregulated investment in commercial agriculture.

If the high deforestation rates remain, it is estimated that up to 30% of forests will disappear by 2030.

In an attempt to salvage the situation, global leaders and top bank chiefs have pledged billions to help reverse the steep decline in Africa’s woodland areas. The pledges were made during One Planet Summit on Thursday, an event that was officially opened by French President Emmanuel Macron. Other notable individuals who were in attendance are Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy Willia Ruto, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga among other local and international leaders.

Interim World Bank through its President Kristalina Georgieva pledged USD 12 billion to fund adaptation and resilient climate smart projects in Africa over the next five years. She assured President Kenyatta that the World Bank will support Kenya’s efforts to increase its forest cover by funding the restoration of at least 60 million hectares of forest land.

“We will invest heavily in smart agriculture and in the restoration of degraded land,” the World Bank boss said.

African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said his bank commits to provide USD 25 billion towards climate finance for the next five years in a move to address the issue of climate change.

French President Macron lauded President Kenyatta for his commitment to environmental conservation and he notably praised Kenya for hosting the One Planet Summit adding that the summit was the only one that has shown concern about climate change and environmental conservation in Africa.

President Macron also pledged an additional USD 566 million towards green projects in Africa. While giving his speech during the summit, he said, “Africa is key in this project because it bears the first direct impact of climate change.”

“Today we are here to show commitment and on behalf of our government and our people, I am pledging that by 2022, we want to reach a minimum of 10 per cent forest cover in our country as a way of also ensuring that we play our part both as a government and as members of the global community,” President Kenyatta said while speaking during the summit.

He called for collaborative efforts towards environmental conservation, pointing out that forests like the oceans are the lungs that keep the planet alive.

“Investment in sustainable management in the conservation of our forests is one of the most effective interventions to combat climate change in Kenya,” the Head of State added.
The President noted that the loss of forest cover heighten the effects of climate change leading to natural calamities such as droughts, fires and floods. He further called for integrated climate action and innovation in sustainable development efforts.

Also worthy to mention, he spoke about the Kenya Cleaner Production Strategy 2000 that encourages resource efficiency and cleaner production in manufacturing. “It embraces the 5 R’s philosophy of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Reformulate, and Re-manufacture, cutting emissions into the environment to acceptable levels.” he said adding that his administration has put in place policies and legal instruments to control environmental pollution.

Over the past few years there have been a number of global initiatives that have been launched in sub-Saharan African countries to protect and restore forests . Some of the most important include the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme (REDD+) and the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and World Resources Institute (WRI).

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