Social forestry key to fighting climate change

Social forestry key to fighting climate change
 Professor Judi Wakhungu

Professor Judi Wakhungu

NAIROBI. – Experts and policy makers said yesterday that large-scale adoption of trees in agricultural landscapes has enhanced climate change mitigation and adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa.  The concept of social forestry has gained traction in Africa as governments explore innovative measures to achieve a 10 percent forest cover and arrest spiralling climate related vagaries.

“Rising demand for food and fuel wood has accelerated forest depletion in Africa. Our countries must formulate policies that promote conservation of forests against a backdrop of serious threats including population pressure and climate change,” Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Environment Professor Judi Wakhungu said.

She was addressing a seminar on mitigating climate change in Africa through social forestry being held in Nairobi.
Heads of Forestry organisations and policymakers from 20 sub-Saharan African countries attended the seminar to share best practices on up scaling social forestry.

The Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) has provided technical and financial support to build the capacity of African countries to expand social forestry and mitigate against climate change.

An increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in Africa call for a paradigm shift to buffer communities against environmental and health crises.

Wakhungu regretted that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicentre of severe droughts, floods, human and livestock diseases due to climate change.

“The impact of climate change can only be minimised if we develop and promote technologies that boost resilience for communities. One option that can bring great benefits is to integrate trees into agricultural landscapes through social forestry,” she said.

Wakhungu added that social forestry practices like agro-forestry, tree planting on public spaces and watersheds will transform livelihoods.
JICA has partnered with 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to implement a capacity development program on Social Forestry launched in 1995.

Chief Representative of JICA Kenya Office Hideo Eguchi stressed that technical capacity is crucial to enable governments expand social forestry programs in the grassroots.

“There is need to strengthen institutional capacity for countries to implement social forestry activities. We need to involve local communities in the adoption of innovative forest expansion models,” Eguchi said.

Africa’s forest sector is grappling with challenges related to climate change and rapid urbanisation.
Policy makers agreed that social forestry offers cost effective and sustainable solution to forest depletion in many African countries due to human encroachment and climate change.

“Social forestry has proved to be a sustainable avenue to provide rural communities in Africa with the means and motivation to invest in their environment,” said Director of Kenya Forestry Research Institute Ben Chikamai. – Xinhua.

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