Tackle activities damaging Africa’s forest cover

BY: Dominic Moses Awiah & Alessandra Barbaro
 Kofi Annan (inset), a former UN Secretary General, delivering his address at the Forest for the Future New Forests for Africa Conference in Accra. Picture: EMMANUEL ASAMOAH ADDAI

A former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, has opened a two-day international forest conference in Accra, with a call on African leaders to put in place systematic steps to tackle activities damaging the continent’s forest cover.

He said the growing demand for wood and other forest products and the activities of illegal miners and illegal timber operators were gradually destroying Africa’s forest cover.

''As it stands now, 130 million hectares of Africa’s forest cover has been lost since 1990,” Mr Annan said on Wednesday when he addressed participants from 13 countries attending the event.

Forest for the future

Dubbed “Forest for the future New Forest for Africa”, the conference is being attended by forest experts and stakeholders from parts of Africa, Europe and America.

The conference seeks, among other things, to discuss possible ways of protecting the continent’s forest cover by addressing destructive practices, including illegal logging, illegal mining, wildfires, and unsustainable agriculture.

It also seeks to ensure that the promise made by African leaders at a conference in France last year is fulfilled.

The pledge was to restore a total of 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes within Africa by 2030.

Mr Annan said Africa could make billions of dollars annually if measures were put in place to protect and restore the continent’s forest cover.

“Restoring 350 million hectares of forest cover could generate $170 billion yearly,” he said.

Apart from Africa losing these revenues, Mr Annan said illegal logging, as well as wildfires, were  destroying the lives of thousands of Africans, especially children.

Mr Annan said there was the need for African leaders and civil organisations to partner in setting up sustainable forest projects by protecting the continent’s forest and restoring the lost forest cover.

“We should show more commitment in the fight against activities that destroy the forest else its implications could overwhelm the entire continent,” he cautioned.

Ghana’s preparedness

For his part, the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, said the institution, over the past years, had embarked on many initiatives to protect the country’s forest cover.

Ghana has lost more than seven million hectares of its forest cover in the last 100 years.

The country’s forest cover, which stood at 8.6 million hectares at the turn of the 19th century, now stands at 1.8 million hectares.

Mr Dartey said the vision of the Forestry Commission was to leave future generations and their communities with richer, better and more valuable forest endowments.

“The country is, therefore, making strenuous efforts to significantly reduce deforestation and forest degradation,” he added.