FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO and IGAD step to reinforce sustainable management of forest resources in East Africa

Ministerial meeting endorses newly developed IGAD Regional Forestry policy & strategy document

FAO noted the significant contribution of forests to the economy, livelihood & food security in the IGAD Region. ©FAO/Djibouti

16 March 2020, Djibouti - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) held a ministerial meeting to endorse the newly developed IGAD Regional Forestry Policy and Strategy by ministers in charge of Forestry and Environment in the IGAD member states on 9 March 2020 in Djibouti.

The IGAD Member States recognize that forests, trees, and woodlands are central to the three pillars of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - and that the sector is not currently being given adequate priority. Forests used to cover over 40% of the land area of the IGAD region not long ago. Today, the forest area of this region accounts only for 21 percent of the total forest area of Africa and 4 percent of the world's forests.

In his opening statement, the Minister for Agriculture, Water, Livestock and Fisheries Resources of Djibouti, Hon. Mohamed Ahmed Awaleh observed that a regional approach was required to ensure adequate management of forest resources, as forests are transboundary. He therefore lauded the development of the IGAD Regional Forestry Policy as an essential step to contributing to the viable management of forest resources in the region.

Dademanao PissangTchangai, FAO Representative to Djibouti, delivering remarks on behalf of Chimimba David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator of Eastern Africa, noted the significant contribution of forests to the economy, livelihood and food security in the IGAD Region. He further highlighted that it was timely for the IGAD region to have a forestry policy and strategy so as to guide and manage these resources sustainably, considering that the region is increasingly faced with unprecedented levels of deforestation.

Despite their significant contribution, forests face multiple challenges such as unsustainable utilization of forest and tree resources, ecosystems degradation, wildlife and biodiversity loss, increased pressure on forest land due to agriculture and poor farming methods, increased demand on forest products, limited management capacity and weak forest institutions, climate change, recurrent droughts and dry spells, and food insecurity. Tchangai added, “this forestry policy and strategy envisions an IGAD region where “forests are protected, sustainably managed and their services are recognized and valued by all.”

He also stated that the policy and strategy document would serve the IGAD Secretariat, Member States, development partners, and stakeholders on the shared journey towards sustainable forest resources management in the region. “As a product of a participatory process, I hope that the IGAD Secretariat and the Member States will own this IGAD Regional Forestry Policy and Strategy document. I am confident that Governments in Eastern Africa, development partners, and stakeholders will collaborate and join IGAD’s effort to implement actions in the forestry strategy for the prosperity and wealth of the people of the Subregion.” He said.

Speaking for the IGAD Executive Secretary, the Director of Agriculture and Environment Division, Mohamed Moussa stressed, “the development and endorsement of the regional policy and strategy is not enough to protect the forest resources in the region. It is rather the level of our commitment to properly implement the policy and strategy that would contribute to the sustainable management of forest resources in the region. This is the time for a paradigm shift in our plans and actions in sustainable management of our forest resources, particularly transboundary forests”.

Key challenges facing IGAD forest sector include deteriorating state of forests, receding natural forest cover and ecological services, coupled with increasing pressure on forest land and demand on forest products; limited management capacity and weak forest institutions, climate change, recurrent droughts and dry spells, food insecurity, rising population leading to conflicts, migration, unemployment and widespread poverty. Yet, forests play a direct or indirect role in most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their multiple social, economic and environmental functions. The Forest sector has an important contribution to make towards the achievement of SDGs especially in terms of reducing poverty, protecting the environment and increasing food security.

The IGAD Regional Forestry Policy and Strategy, developed with technical and financial support from FAO, will guide collaboration among partners to improve forest governance, including through supportive policies, legislation and institutional frameworks for sustainable forest management in the IGAD region. It will also enhance the capacity for sustainable forest management; and establish a system for generation, dissemination, and exchange of forestry information and good practices for Sustainable Forest Management. The guiding policy document will also help increase contributions from forestry to poverty alleviation, food security and climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as steering implementation of other regional developmental priorities in the IGAD member countries.

The ministerial meeting was preceded by a two day (7- 8 March 2020) technical preparatory meeting of national forestry focal points and IGAD country focal points who reviewed the draft IGAD Regional Forestry Policy and Strategy document prior to the Ministerial meeting where it was finally endorsed.

The high-level meeting agreed on a draft declaration of IGAD ministers on the Regional Forestry Policy and Strategy. Among its key recommendations, one was for the IGAD Secretariat to establish a Forestry Unit, a forest database and information-system for supporting the Member States in the implementation of the strategy. It was also agreed that IGAD should re-enforce its efforts to secure accreditation from global financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility, and others. Member states were called upon to contribute to the preparation and implementation of regional programmes and projects, share information, experience and good practices in the forestry sector.

The ministerial meeting endorsed the regional forestry policy and strategy and requested member states to incorporate the strategy into their national strategies and plans and implement the actions in the policy document.