African officials root for forest enterprises

By Henry Neondo

Twenty-six officials and community leaders from 12 African nations yesterday called for "substantial support" for the continent in realizing the potential of community forest management enterprises.

At an international meeting on community forestry enterprises in Rio Branco, capital of Brazil ’s Amazonian state of Acre, the entire contingent from Africa issued a statement urging further discussion of a "time-bound plan for systematically expanding community forest tenure, management and enterprise in African countries to agreed achievable targets by 2015."

The authors said they were struck by the extent to which communities in Asia and the Americas have control of forest lands, and noted in their statement that "the environment for community forest tenure, management and enterprise in Africa is particularly challenging."

"Progress is going to require the kind of honesty we haven’t seen in a long time," said Kyeretwie Opoku, coordinator of the NGO Civic Response, which works to empower West African community groups on issues relating to mining, water and forestry. "This underlying problem of land ownership plagues all of us. You have to give people a chance to live their own lives, using their own resources."

The statement from the African participants was issued today, the last of five days of presentations and discussions held among representatives of governments and NGOs, as well as forest communities from tropical nations in Africa, Asia and the Americas .

The event was organized by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), IUCN – The World Conservation Union and the Global Alliance of Forest Communities. Supported as well by the governments of Brazil and the state of Acre , the meeting brought together 250 participants from more than 40 countries.

The authors of the African statement noted that they had been influenced by the results of a study issued during the conference.

According to "Community-based Forest Enterprises in Tropical Forest Countries: Status and Potential", community forestry enterprises are becoming a significant force worldwide, particularly in terms of their impact on the economies of poor nations. Communities now own or have the right to manage 11 percent of the world’s natural forests. In developing countries, this share rises to 22 percent.

The study suggests that such enterprises can generate a wide range of goods and services while helping to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, reducing poverty among local populations and fostering biodiversity conservation and investments in social infrastructure, including schools and healthcare facilities.

In their statement, the African participants called on ITTO and its partners to support a meeting in 2008 to further discuss a plan for supporting community forest enterprises, one that would set targets and a date by which they would be met.

Anicet Minsouma Bodo, an official with the Minister of Forestry of the Cameroon and one of the signatories, said that the results of the study released at the meeting, and the presentations he had heard regarding successful enterprises from Africa, Asia and the Americas had inspired him.

""The Cameroon is putting into place new procedures for dealing with the forest with the participation of communities and civil society," Bodo said. "Now we will take into account the outputs of this conference in this process. Cameroon will do what it can to take the results of this meeting to heart."

Among the case studies presented at the conference was that of a butterfly export business, run by farmers in Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot of global significance.

Farmers there earn a meager living on small plots of land, producing cash crops such as cardamom, cloves, coffee, tea and bananas. They have no electricity and little access to health and education services. But the impact of the butterfly farm is starting to show, according to says Amiri Saidi, who has been working with the butterfly farmers as project manager for six years.

"There have been many changes," Saidi said. "The income of participating farmers has increased by at least 20%; some are now focusing entirely on butterfly production.

No comments:

google pagerank checker by