By Adelyn Wangusi
The African Forest Forum (AFF) is commemorating a decade of its work on African forestry in Nairobi, Kenya.
Since its establishment, the African Forest Forum (AFF) has provided a bridge between science-based knowledge and good policies to support sustainable forest management; effectively working within a science-policy-management framework.
“We started this journey on December 06, 2007 when AFF was registered as a not-for-profit NGO in Nairobi Kenya, and with a grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in 2008, which helped us, among other things, to set up AFF as a platform that could support African forestry stakeholders to discuss and mobilise resources for improved management and use of their forest and tree resources.
A second grant from the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency (SDC), has strengthened AFF as an institution that is gradually being recognized and respected as another key actor on the African forestry scene” said Prof Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary-CEO at AFF.
The institution, along with its partners, has worked on several key fronts over the past ten years to cultivate shifts in perceptions, priorities, values, capacities and skills to bear on the subsequent impact on forestry and related decisions and practices.
The interventions leading to this have included convenings on specific issues, advocacy, partnerships and collaborative activities, knowledge brokerage, facilitating capacity and skills development, research and development activities.
The goal has been to initiate a process through which local communities are seen and treated as critical stakeholders (participants and beneficiaries), while strategies for harnessing the potential of forest and tree resources to support livelihoods today, some of which employ these interventions, are given as much attention as the sustainable management and wise use of these resources for the benefit of future generations.
As awareness has grown on the role of forests and trees in national economic development, livelihoods and environmental stability, AFF has steadily gained membership and capacity to work on these and other related issues.
Viewed in this context, AFF is providing a platform that facilitates change in the forestry sector. It is this special character that gives the institution the ability to continually adjust to the ever-changing environment that affects forests and trees and their roles, the people who depend on these resources and actors in the forestry business.
During the celebration slated for May 22, 201, AFF plans to also launch eight training compendiums on various aspects of climate change in forestry, as well as a book titled, “The State of Forestry in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges. The event is organized by AFF in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).
Africa’s current forest cover of 624 million hectares (23% of land area) represents natural capital that supports rural livelihoods, national economies, and has considerable potential in the global economy. The African forest ecosystems are also characterized by high biodiversity and species endemism. Further, the annual value of trade in non-timber forest products is largely unknown since these products are traded informally; however, some estimates put it at over USD 500 million. Africa’s forests contribute 21% of the total global carbon stock held in forests.
The forests support most rural livelihoods in Africa by providing income-generating and employment opportunities. There are very varied estimates of such contribution, but in some cases, these forests could support up to more than a third of the household incomes. With respect to the provision of ecosystem services, the forests are also important in regulating supplies of water since many river headwaters are found in them.
According to AFF, Africa’s forests are under extreme pressure mainly due to the agricultural expansion that leads to extensive deforestation, forest and land degradation. These are the primary areas of focus by African forest stakeholders in order to restore the integrity, functionality, as well as resilience of the forests. The African Forest Forum works with many stakeholders on these and other forestry-related issues.