16 February 2004, Rome/Accra (Ghana)-- "Forestry needs to be fully integrated with other sectors in policy development, particularly agriculture", according to FAO Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, Hosny El-Lakany.
Commenting on the forthcoming meeting of the 14th session of FAO's African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (Accra, Ghana, 18-21 February 2004), Mr. El-Lakany underlined the need "to end the isolation of forestry from mainstream development initiatives."
The importance of forests in alleviating poverty and protecting the environment is increasingly being recognized, yet deforestation and forest degradation are continuing at an alarming rate, Mr. El-Lakany said.
"In Africa, 60 percent of the deforestation that took place between 1990 and 2000 was the result of direct conversion of forest to small-scaler permanent agriculture," Mr. El-Lakany also said.
15 percent of the world's forests
Africa has 15 percent of the world's forests and about 5 percent of its forest plantations, covering 520 million hectares or almost 18 percent of the land area.
In forestry as in many other aspects, Africa is a continent of diversity. It includes countries with some of the world's richest forests. Others are poor in valuable species while others severely lack forest cover.
The Accra meeting will emphasize the role of forests and water in food security and poverty reduction; regional and subregional cooperation; and the place of forests in the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Participants will also review highlights from FAO's recently completed Forestry Outlook Study for Africa which examines the state of the sector today and predicts the situation to 2020 - providing a vital foundation for incorporating forestry into development initiatives.
Senior forestry and wildlife officials and government ministers will also discuss ways and means to improve cooperation to achieve sustainable forest management at national and regional levels.
A number of side meetings will inform policy makers and technical experts throughout the African region of the latest developments in forestry and wildlife.
Presentations will address current and future FAO support to Congo Basin forests; the status of forest research and education in Africa; trade issues facing the forest sector; and the recently published regional code of harvesting for dense tropical forests of Central Africa.
Delegates will also have an opportunity to exchange country experiences in sustainable forest management based on lessons learned.
Immediately prior to the Accra meeting, senior officials, experts and organizations active in wildlife management and conservation will gather for the fifteenth session of the Working Party on the Management of Wildlife and Protected Areas.
At the same time, FAO will hold a workshop on strengthening regional collaboration to achieve sustainable forest management and on implementing the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests - an important step towards translating international discussions into practice in African countries.
The workshop will specifically focus on trade in forest products and on rehabilitation of degraded forest lands.
The African Forestry and Wildlife Commission is one of six regional forestry commissions worldwide that provides a high-level forum for addressing emerging forest issues with key collaborators both from within and outside government.