NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
East African countries said Thursday they have
started developing a harmonized forest policy and strategy to
increase forest cover and contain drought.
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries who
met in Nairobi said the initiative is aimed at improved
contributions of forests resources to national economies for
poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and development
of the IGAD member states.
“The initiative will
contribute to the increment of forest cover to help contain
drought that has been a major problem in the Horn of Africa,”
said Debalkew Berhe, IGAD’s Program Manager for Environmental
Protection during a forum in Nairobi.
Berhe noted that the
regional bloc was mandated with the responsibility of managing
drought and desertification but over a period of time changed to
sustainable development but drought continued to worsen
productivity in the region.
“Our solution is to
develop a harmonized forest policy and strategy to help increase
forest cover to improve rainfall pattern, increase food
security, address water problem and help address climate
change,” he added.
Berhe said that once
the forest policy and strategy becomes effective, it will help
address issues on socio-economic benefits of the forestry.
According to Gabriel
Rugalema, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Representative in Kenya, with the rising population in the
region, there is need for forest policy and strategy to help
reduce pressure on natural resources.
Rugalema said that
given the livelihood opportunities provided by forests and
woodlands, it is not surprising that over the past few decades
they have been subjected to various pressures that are
increasing the deforestation rate.
remains the most serious threat to sustainable forestry
production in the sub-region,” he added.
Rugalema said that
forests in the region are also under pressure due to the
increased infrastructure and agricultural expansion demand that
has been in the rise in the past few years.
population increase is worrying since it is projected to be 270
million in 2030 up from the current 245 million,” he warned.
surviving tropical forests and planting new trees to replace
those lost to deforestation could help reduce the severity of
climate change regulating local weather conditions,” Rugalema
He said that IGAD
region is lagging behind as it is the only region in Africa that
does not have a forest policy and strategy since regional bodies
such as the Economic Commission on West African States (ECOWAS)
and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a
functional forest policy and strategy.
Rugalema called on
participants who are drawn from Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, South
Sudan, Ethiopia, Somali and Sudan to include needs of forestry
Rugalema noted that
forest provide economic benefits and have tourism potential for
alleviating poverty in the regional countries.
Fred Mwango, IGAD’s
regional water expert, said forests in the region provide trade
opportunities like the case with Sudan that is the leading world
producer of gum Arabica.
He added that Sudan
contributes between 70 and 90 per cent of the total world gum
forests provide water catchment services with a value in excess
of 25 million U.S. dollars million every year,” he added.
The delegates are
exchanging knowledge and experience including legislative issues
that can be capitalized on to improve the final policy and
FAO is supporting
the development of Forestry Policy and Strategy that is due to
be launched officially in December 2019.