Environmentalists seek to boost global forest cover

At least 50 environmentalists and stakeholders on environment are meeting in Kigali to share lessons and experiences as they look at ways to considerably boost forest landscape restoration (FLR) across the region and the globe at large.
The Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta (L) chats with Christine Sagno, Guinean minister for environment, water and forests during a breakfast meeting for environment....
The Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta (L) chats with Christine Sagno, Guinean minister for environment, water and forests during a breakfast meeting for environment....

At least 50 environmentalists and stakeholders on environment are meeting in Kigali to share lessons and experiences as they look at ways to considerably boost forest landscape restoration (FLR) across the region and the globe at large.

The two-day meeting, which begun yesterday, involves two parallel events: the Africa High Level Bonn Challenge Roundtable, and the international knowledge sharing workshop on FLR.

 
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Participants follow proceedings during the meeting in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira.

The sessions bring together leaders in government from more than 20 African countries that demonstrated leadership on forest landscape restoration, as well as delegates from international organisations supporting these endeavours.

 

Dr Vincent Biruta, the minister for natural resources, said leaders now have the opportunity and responsibility to harness the momentum and multiply it by working together.

 
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Natural Resource minister Vincent Biruta gives his opening remarks. / Timothy Kisambira

“By taking stock of the progress of the Bonn Challenge and sharing experiences and opportunities for financing investment we can match technical know-how with policy that delivers for our people and the planet,” Dr Biruta said.

“Rwanda faces landscape and forestry management challenges. For Rwanda, forest landscape restoration is no longer a choice but a necessity to safeguard our development and protect our people.”

In 2011, Rwanda committed to restore two million hectares of land cover by 2020, an ambitious but essential target.

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Jesca Eriyo, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, said that restoration of forests will contribute to good quality of water and Agriculture. / Timothy Kisambira

Rwanda’s commitment is part of the Bonn Challenge; a global aspiration to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Africa alone has pledged nearly 45 million hectares of land cover.

“I am glad to note that collaborating with the Rwanda government on this programme since its inception early this year, pilot activities have been initiated in two districts as well as hosting of this regional hub for the forest landscape restoration here in Kigali,” said Luther Bois Anukur, regional director of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Luther Bois Anukur, Regional Director of International Union for Conservation of Nature, gives his remarks during the meeting.

Rwanda – a leader in forest restoration in the region – recently established one of Africa’s newest national parks, Gishwati-Mukura Forest, which is being rehabilitated under the principles of the Bonn Challenge commitment.

Rwanda is also hosting the Regional Hub of Excellence on Forest Landscape Restoration for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Jesca Eriyo, the East African Community (EAC) deputy secretary-general in charge of productive and social sectors, is happy that most countries in the region are working with countries like Brazil, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, DR Congo in conserving forests.

“Restoration of our forests will contribute to good quality of our water and it will contribute to the survival of insects and the productivity of our agriculture. Agro forestry is one of the initiatives we are promoting in the east African region, working together with farmers and those who are interested in investing in forestry,” Eriyo, from Uganda, said.

Role of private sector 

Amb. Peter Fahrenholtz, Germany’s envoy in Rwanda, said while many techniques of forest landscape restoration are available, the challenge is to bring a single technique to scale to achieve the social-economic and environmental goals.

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German Amb Peter Fahrenholtz, said that Germany is one of the countries playing a leading role in supporting forest restoration efforts in the region.

Germany is one of the countries playing a leading role in supporting forest restoration efforts in the region.

“Now is the time to begin implementing all the commitments. This is a major challenge. To achieve the goals of the Bonn Challenge and the New York declaration of forests, we need many partners, above all from the private sector,” Amb. Fahrenholtz said.

Sharing experiences from home, Nii Osah Mills, Ghanaian minister for lands and mineral resources, said Ghana is losing forest cover at an “alarming” rate of two percent per year but it is committed to restoring two million hectares.

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Nii Osah Mills, Ghana's Minister of Lands and Mineral Resources, speaks during the meeting in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

Mills said: “This summit couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time than this. According to the FAO, Africa loses an estimated 3.4 million hectares of forest every year. This, clearly, is unacceptable. We must resolve to stem the tide of deforestation with its adverse environmental and socio-economic consequences.”

Ghana, he said, plans to restore one million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, as earlier pledged and, “this is a commitment we intend to achieve and even exceed, with the support of key strategic partners.”

By 2030, Ghana expects to have restored 2.7 million hectares, he said.

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