1. The African Forestry and Wildlife Commission's Working Party on the Management of Wildlife and Protected Areas held its Fifteenth session in Accra, Ghana, at the Novotel Accra City Centre, from 16 to 18 February 2004, at the kind invitation of the Government of Ghana. Madam Theresa Amele-Tagoe, Deputy Minister for Lands and Forestry, chaired the Opening Ceremony of the Working Party and Professor Dominic Fobih, Minister for Lands and Forestry, formally opened the meeting.
2. The session was attended by 28 delegates from the following countries: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte d' Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe. Non-Governmental Organizations which attended the meeting were Conservation International (Ghana), Foundation for Future Christian Workers International, the Organization for the Conservation of African Wildlife (OCAW) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature International (WWF). The complete list of participants is shown in Annex B.
3. In his opening remarks on behalf of Mr Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General, FAO Forestry Department, Mr El-Hadji Sène, Director, Forest Resources Division, thanked the Government of Ghana for kindly hosting the Fifteenth session of the AFWC Working Party on the Management of Wildlife and Protected Areas and the Minister for honouring the opening ceremony. Mr Sène noted that wildlife and protected areas are under pressure in much of Africa and observed that the Fifteenth session of the Working Party on the Management of Wildlife and Protected Areas provides a valuable opportunity to review current issues and find ways of responding to these. One of the most important of these issues is the continuing concern over the commercial trade in bushmeat.
4. The Honorable Minister for Lands and Forestry, Professor Dominic Fobih (MP), welcomed participants to Accra and thanked FAO for selecting Ghana for the meetings. He noted that forests and wildlife are both threatened and attributed the threat to poverty and the need to make a living. Logging, mineral prospecting, wild fires and slash and burn agriculture are additional threats. Only 1.6 million ha of forest remain in Ghana and 65,000 ha are deforested each year. Wild fires cause losses equivalent to 3% of GDP and result in depletion of water supply, soil fertility and wildlife. Experts have the responsibility to find solutions to these problems. A further difficulty is that although forestry contributes 6% of GDP, US$170 million in export earnings, which is 30% of the national total, and directly employs 75,000 people and indirectly employs two million people, it has little political support.
5. The Provisional Agenda, as set out in document FO:AFWC/WL.2004/1 (Annex A,) was adopted without change. The list of documents presented to the Working Party is shown in Annex C.
6. Mr. Ofori Frimpong, Executive Director, Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission (Ghana), was unanimously elected Chairman of the Working Party. Mr. Motsamai Nkosi (South Africa) and Mr. Fred Stévy Oyele Minile Sako (Central African Republic) were elected first and second Vice-Chairmen, respectively. Ms Eunice Mahoro Duli (Uganda) and Ms.Salwa Mansur Abdelhameed (Sudan) were elected Rapporteurs.
7. Fourteen countries reported to the Working Party on activities and developments that occurred in the interval between the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth sessions of the Working Party. Ghana, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Uganda, Central African Republic, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo and Morocco made oral and/or written presentations on progress and problems in their countries. A number of issues appeared in virtually all of the presentations.
8. Weakness of law enforcement was raised by several countries. This was a matter of serious concern, and most of the countries are making efforts to find solutions.
9. Inadequate institutional arrangements are causing problems in some countries. Models for resolving these problems exist, and the challenge is to find ways of helping affected countries to apply these models. A number of countries have indicated institutional changes, including the creation of semi-statal bodies.
10. On a positive note, institutional reform and revision of policies and laws, aimed at improved effectiveness of the management of wildlife and protected areas and the increased sustainability of the use of wildlife resources, are ongoing in several countries.
11. Inadequate financial resources are a common problem. One approach to addressing this problem is to involve the private sector in developing the economic potential of the wildlife resource by providing the necessary investment. There is general interest in this approach.
12. Cross boundary movements of wildlife are common in the region and give rise to a need for intergovernmental cooperation on this issue. Experience has shown that initiatives by people on the ground to develop contact and cooperation with counterparts across common boundaries are an effective way of facilitiating high level cooperation to address and resolve transboundary tensions. The Working Party recommended that FAO should assist countries in the region to explore possibilities and elaborate strategies in this respect.
13. Breeding wild animal species to replenish depleted populations of heavily hunted species was seen to be a viable option for continuing to meet consumer demand for these species. The meeting therefore recommended that the Special Programme for Food Security and similar initiatives should involve rearing of wildlife species intensively hunted for meat.