by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Massive investment in forest restoration programs are an imperative in order to boost green growth in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, experts have said.
The conservation experts who met at a forum in Nairobi on Friday were emphatic that halting forest degradation through a raft of strategic policy, legislative and funding incentives would promote sustainable development in Africa.
Godwin Kowero, the Executive Secretary of Nairobi-based Africa Forest Forum (AFF) said healthy forest ecosystems will underpin the continent's future prosperity, stability and peace.
"Africa is losing its forest cover faster than other parts of the world hence the need to prioritize investments in programs that can reverse this trend," Kowero said.
He noted that climate change, governance hiccups, population growth and urbanization were exerting pressure on Africa's forests.
African governments must overhaul outdates policies, enforce the laws and engage communities in a bid to restore degraded forests.
Kowero regretted that poor enforcement of laws and lack of trained personnel were undermining forest governance in many African countries.
"Illegal harvesting of forest products alongside encroachment has gone unabated due to lack of deterrent measures," Kowero said, adding that political goodwill is key to promote forests' conservation in Africa
African states have endorsed the UN Strategic Plan for Forests that calls for new approaches to promote conservation of this critical ecosystem.
Kowero revealed that African countries are expected to make a strong case for sustainable forests management during the UN Forestry Forum to be held in New York in May.
"African nations have agreed to speak with one voice during the New York forum in order to raise the visibility of forest conservation agenda," said Kowero.
He added that African governments have been encouraged to tap into global financing schemes that promote forest conservation as a means to enhance climate resilience.
African governments, businesses and local communities have rallied behind efforts geared towards restoring forest ecosystems thanks to increased awareness on their immense benefits.
Kowero noted that African leaders have been at the frontline to promote forest conservation in line with a continental pact on accelerating sustainable development and ecological renewal.
"There are robust political decisions being made to rejuvenate forest conservation in this continent," Kowero said.
African governments must strengthen capacity of local institutions and enact progressive legislation and policies to promote forests conservation.
Almami Dampha, the senior policy officer for forestry and land management at the African Union Commission said that prudent management of forest resources is key to sustain food, water and energy security in the world's second largest continent.