FAO Regional Office for Africa

XIV World Forestry Congress launched in South Africa

Congress to be held 7–11 September will emphasize people-centred forestry, socioeconomic issues and the role of forests and forestry in national economic development

Left to right: Minister Senzeni Zokwana, Tiina Vahanen and David Phiri at the ceremony to launch the congress (Photo: © FAO/ Steven Lazaro)

01 June 2015, Pretoria – The Government of the Republic of South Africa, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), today officially launched the XIV World Forestry Congress (WFC), which will be held in Durban, South Africa from 7 to 11 September this year. The first World Forestry Congress to be held on the African continent since its inception in 1926, will emphasize people-centred forestry, socioeconomic issues, and the role of forests, trees and forestry in national economic development.

Speaking at the launch Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Mr Senzeni Zokwana said; “the growing threat of climate change has dramatically thrown the importance of our forests into critical relief”. Minister Zokwana added that forests sustain more than our economies as they serve as the lungs of the earth by providing humanity with oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide and providing livelihoods to millions of people around the globe.

Tiina Vahanen, Associate Secretary-General, XIV World Forestry Congress said the congress would address key issues such as climate change, water and sustainable wood fuel supply – the latter being particularly crucial in Africa. Investing in forests is an investment in people, hence the focus on the role of forests in sustaining life, acting as buffers against environmental change and inspiring new technologies and products.

"Our hope is that the Congress in Durban will be the most dynamic and inclusive yet, and we are working to ensure that the voices of young people, women and local communities will be heard in the vital task of defining a vision for the sustainable future of forests and forestry. We are working towards a lasting legacy in the region given that the Congress will be held in Africa for the first time, generously hosted by South Africa,” said Vahanen.

Forests play a crucial role for Africa

The FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, said Africa epitomizes the most important global challenges and opportunities for forests and forestry. The continent, Phiri said, faces challenges from climate change, urbanization, increasing demands on commodities (food, fuel, fibre and forests – the so-called 4Fs) and environmental services, and competition for public funding, as well as the need to empower local communities, engage the private sector and strengthen governance and institutional reform.

“Forests play an essential role in the region,” said Phiri.  “More than a quarter of Africa’s overall energy supply comes from forests, and they are crucial for preventing and reversing desertification. At the same time, however, forests have been seen as significant water consumers themselves. FAO hopes that all of these issues, and especially the way that they interconnect, will be addressed at the Congress and that the discussions will equip the forest community with a deeper understanding to face the complexities of the world we live in.”

Phiri added that the Congress, established almost 90 years ago, has the vital task of discussing emerging issues in the forestry sector and guiding ways to address them over the coming decades. FAO has been entrusted with supporting the Congress in close cooperation with the host country since the UN system was established in 1945.

Forestry sector vital for livelihoods

Despite South Africa being lightly forested - covering 7 percent of the country’s land area - the XIV WFC host country estimates that over 2 million rural people are dependent on the industry for their livelihoods. Various studies show that the creation of employment and business opportunities within the forestry sector is probably the most significant contribution that forestry could make towards providing household food security and improving rural people’s livelihoods.

The Congress is particularly timely for discussing the UN post-2015 agenda and the sustainable development goals. It is clear that people must be at the centre of sustainable development, and that poverty eradication and sustainable management are essential requirements.

“As a result of the work in Durban, the Congress will issue a set of key messages that will underscore the importance of forestry's contribution to the new post 2015 development goals and pave the road for a new vision of forests and forestry in the future, as well as for a new climate change agreement at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris in December," concluded Vahanen.

More information

  1. Official Congress website: www.wfc2015.org.za
  2. FAO Congress pages: www.fao.org/forestry/wfc
  3. Twitter hashtag #Forests2015

Media Contact:

Steven Lazaro

Communications - FAO Representation in South Africa

[email protected]


Leonard Makombe

Assistant Communication Officer - FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa - Harare, Zimbabwe

Email: [email protected]