by Christine Lagat
ENTEBBE, Uganda, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Sound management of the vast forest resources in sub-Saharan Africa is key to enhance climate change response in a continent worst hit by the negative impacts of that phenomenon, scientists said Monday.
Scientists and researchers told a regional forum in Entebbe, Uganda, that forest resources if harnessed prudently have the capacity to accelerate green and inclusive growth in Africa.
Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary of Nairobi-based Africa Forest Forum (AFF), said that Africa's green aspirations will only be realized if countries promote sustainable management of natural assets like highland forests, scrublands, wetlands and mangrove swamps.
"The contribution of forestry sector towards climate mitigation and adaptation in Africa is immense hence the need to protect this resource from man-made and natural threats like pests and diseases," said Kowero.
Dozens of African scientists, policymakers and green advocates are participating in the five-day regional conference to discuss new strategies to revitalize forests conservation amid new threats.
Kowero noted that African countries are yet to fully harness the potential of forestry sector to tackle climate change and poverty thanks to disjointed policies and limited awareness among communities.
He urged governments to incentivize the private sector and communities to invest in forest conservation in order to achieve food, energy and water security.
"The next debate should focus on how to motivate the private sector to invest in reforestation projects. Communities too should be encouraged to conserve indigenous forests in their vicinity to ensure they have adequate supply of food, firewood and fiber," Kowero said.
He added that improved surveillance systems are key to contain invasive species alongside virulent pests and diseases that have posed new threat to Africa's tropical forests.
Rapid depletion of Africa's forest ecosystems due to climatic stresses, population pressure and urbanization could jeopardize low-carbon development in the world's second largest continent.
Paul Mafabi, Director of Environment Affairs at Uganda's Ministry of Water and Environment, said that drastic measures are required to reverse loss of Africa's forest cover.
"African communities are paying dearly from unprecedented loss of forests and strong measures should be put in place to reverse this trend," said Mafabi.
He revealed that Uganda is losing 100,000 hectares of forest every year hence undermining climate resilience in the East African nation.