DURBAN, South Africa (4 December, 2011)_The degradation of Africa’s forests is decimating its wildlife, said Helen Gichohi, President of the African Wildlife Foundation, and she called for REDD+ funding to move more quickly to save the continent’s forest.
“Deforestation rates in Africa are already four times the world average and are accelerating,” Gichohi said in a keynote speech at Forest Day 5 in Durban. “The disappearing forests, the overgrazed rangelands, and conversion to crop agriculture of grasslands and wetlands that had served as drought refugia … all have diminished the resilience of the system.”
The need for practical solutions to safeguard Africa’s forests has reached a tipping point, with recent droughts decimating both wildlife and livestock across one of Kenya’s premier wildlife and tourism ecosystems, said Gichohi.
“It was heartbreaking to see the national park and neighbouring community areas outside strewn with wildlife and livestock carcasses. Wildlife populations plummeted and the pastoralists lost 80 percent of their livestock,” she said.
Estimates suggest that 9 percent of forest cover has been lost between 1995 and 2005 across sub-Saharan Africa, representing an average loss of 40,000 square kilometres of forest per year. For example, Kenya has lost the majority of its forest cover to settlement and agriculture, leaving only 1.7% coverage.
This is undermining national development and conservation efforts and most importantly putting at risk the livelihoods of millions of people through diminished climate regulation services that forests provide.
“Forests are important to national governments for economic growth and development. They are vital to Africa’s magnificent and unique wildlife and they are important globally for the biodiversity they hold, climate stabilisation and other services they provide. These values sometimes compete with one another … and these competing needs are being reconciled to enable people to prosper and the wildlife of Africa to survive,” Gichohi said.
While money is available globally for climate change mitigation and adaptation, not much is flowing to people and forest communities where it could transform livelihoods and biodiversity.
National mechanisms are urgently needed to fast-track implementation on the ground of responsibly planned REDD+ systems, she said, to deliver local initiatives to address climate change and the threat it poses to both people and ecosystems.
“For REDD to work we need to bring down the transaction costs of getting the carbon to market. We need to design ways of sharing carbon incomes fairly and equitably, particularly those who bear the opportunity costs of foregone forest uses. And we need to share the responsibilities for long-term compliance fairly and equitably.”
Helen Gichohi, President of the African Wildlife Foundation, gives her keynote address at the opening plenary of Forest Day 5. More Forest Day 5 videos
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