West Africa’s national forestry investment plan approved
The Forest Investment Plan for ECOWAS member states has been validated in the Gambia.
The draft document, designed to support the implementation of the West African Forest Convergence Plan, was approved at a two-day workshop from the 11-12 May organised by ECOWAS and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resource of The Gambia at a hotel in Kololi.
The move came in response to the recommendations of the ministerial meeting that adopted the Forest Convergence Plan, the ECOWAS Commission and FAO signed on 24 September 2015.
Speaking at the workshop, Madam Kalala, FAO representative to the Gambia, said the validated plan would strengthen national capacities for implementation of the components of the West African Forest Convergence Plan, and aid in the sustainable management and use of the forest ecosystems in West Africa.
She said the Forest Investment Plan aims to provide guidance to policy and decision makers, donors and other stakeholders in order to mobilise adequate financial resources for the sustainable management of forest and wildlife resources.
Also addressing the gathering, Lamina Jawara, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, highlighted the importance of forest in the development of any nation. In West Africa alone, forests contribute significantly to food, security, primary health care, livestock feeding, domestic energy supply and provide invaluable environmental services and regulation of the biogeochemical processes of ecosystems.
However, he underscored the fact that many of these forests were becoming degraded, but there was little cooperation between states in forest resource management.
He referenced the sectoral ministers responsible for forests and of wildlife, which adopted the West Africa Forest Convergence Plan on 12 September 2013 in Abidjan. This plan, he went on, is based on the long process of forest dialogue involving all 15 ECOWAS Member States, intergovernmental organisations (WAEMU, CILSS) and International Organisations of the United Nations System (FAO, CIFOR) and International NGOs (IUCN, AFF).
In his view, the overall objective of the forum was to review and improve the draft National Forest Investment Program of The Gambia, which would be used for advocacy and mobilisation of resources tools for sustainable forest management at the country level.
The convergence plan was initially adopted in view of the fact that West Africa faces severe challenges of degradation, deforestation and loss of critical habitats due to unsustainable farming practices, bush burning, illegal logging and trade on wildlife products – all of which are affecting the ecosystem.
Global forests have great relevance to humanity and its contribution is not only related to the conservation of biodiversity but is of global economic and environmental importance.
James Barrett, a spokesman for forestry investment firm GWD Forestry, said this validation would have a positive impact on the global forestry industry. “With this move, the Gambia are setting a precedent to other countries, and making a clear message on the continued importance of our forests.”