Forest ecosystems key in driving climate action in Africa
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20 July 2023 Author :   Elias Ngalame
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (PAMACC News) - The African Forest Forum, AFF working with African governments and other international partners have been supporting research, innovation and knowledge building in the forestry sector to better improve livelihoods and fight against climate change in the continent.
 Some 15 PHD and 3 Msc. research students in forest conservation management from 10 African countries who benefitted from such funding , have presented their findings at a knowledge sharing regional workshop in Nairobi,Kenya July 3-7 , 2023.
Environment experts agree the research findings present some interesting results that will help drive the fight against climate change and improve livelihoods of the population in the continent.
" The findings show a lot of challenges  but at the same time opportunities  and resource potentials  that will go a long way to drive the fight against climate change," says Ben Chikamani Executive Secretary at Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA) Kenya and one of the chairs of the discussion and exchange session of the workshop.
He adds that the research findings will reinforce synergy in the global fight against climate change and the push for sustainable development goals in line with article 13 of UN NDGs
The goals accordingly call for the improvement of human and institutional capacity to fight climate change .
 It is against this backdrop that the knowledge sharing workshop focused on the theme « Forest and Tree-based ecosystems services for socio-ecological resilence to climate change in Africa » according to AFF .
The students carried out their studies in different ecosystems( Sahel parklands,moist forest,mangroves and woodland) on varied Forest issues like Forest cover dynamics, forest ecosystems goods and services, dynamics of fruit trees, ecosystem services and reduction of the vulnerability of populations to climate change , adaptation of tropical trees species to climate change, Contribution of coffee and cocoa agroforests in adapting to climate change, Climate change and climate justice: a gender analysis of REDD+ .
Basiru Adenyi Okanlawon PHD student from Nigeria worked on « Climate change and climate justice ; a gender analysis of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest degradation (REDD+) » in the South of Cross River ,Nigeria .
He notes in his findings that International NGOs and organisations were more concerned in driving gender mainstreaming than local NGOs and the government as evidenced by the number of available funded projects on the ground .
« In Nigeria cultural norms impede  women from getting involved with men in development actions. They must seek and get the consent of their men, who are reluctant to accept » Okanlawon says . This explains why according to his findings only 7 % of women in the South of Cross River are engaged in REDD+ activities .
Another PHD research students Alice Jebiwott from Kenya worked on «  An assessment of Mau Forest Cover, Climate Change and impacts of Evictions on livelihoods in the Rift-Valley, Kenya »
She notes in her findings that the eviction of Rift Valley forest population from their natural habitat has brought misery in their lives , depriving them of their sources of income , indegenous knowledge and their land rights .
« Their lives before and after the eviction have completely change for the worse . Those who earned their living as herbalists , non timber forest products etc, can no longer do so . Women who took care of their households through trade in such products have been deprived of these opportunities » Chebiwott says .
Danielle Chimi PHD student from Cameroon researched on «  The dynamics of fruit tree growing, ecosystem services and reducing the vulnerabilty of the populations to climate Change in the West highlands region of Cameroon»
She notes that agro-forestry systems is one of the best alternative for forest population in the African continent.
«  Fruit tree planting is an important ecosystem service that can bail the forest population from poverty and the fight against climate change » she says.
She notes that with the fall in world market prices of cash crops such as coffee on which forest population relied as well as climate threats not favourable to food crops, the forest population swapped to agroforestry growing mostly fruits .
« These resilent measures have really improved the livelihood of the farming population of the west region in Cameroon » Chimi revealed in her research .
A growing innovation among forest communities as revealed by the different research studies is the increasing use ecosystem services and efforts to add value by the different stakeholders in the production chain.
« Ecosystem services obtained naturally from the forest such as stable clean water supplies, productive soil, and carbon sequestration , are increasingly exploited both by government, the private sector and the forest population . If managed sustainably this will potentially help in the fight against climate change » says Yaya Doumba from Ivory Coast who researched on « Climate Change Vulnerability of forest cover in Southwest Ivory Coast « 
According to AFF executive secretary , Professor Godwin Kowero, the population of Africa is expected to rise to 2.5 billion by 2050 and a projected demand for industrial wood  estimated to grow from about 75 million m3/per year in 2020  to 250 million m3 per year by 2030 . Consequently  the strain on the African forests and trees outside forests has to be carefully managed, especially in the context of increasing deforestation and forest degradation on the continent  that are increasingly made worse by adverse effects of climate change.
« These resources consist of a myriad of different tree species, good for timber and other building materials, as well as abundance of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), offering ecosystem resources to improve the lives of the population » Prof Kowero said .
According to AFF the research students conducted studies to deepen understanding of the complex relationships between a changing climate and forests and tree-resources to enable those in the forestry sector to develop appropriate mitigation and adaptation responses to address the impacts of climate change .
The researchers shared their findings with over 70 forest stakeholders from 18 African countries taking part in the Nairobi workshop. Their works were highly commended with a call by the forest conservation actors to make good use of the findings .
 « We can see from the presentaions how deep the research works were carried out in the different countries and we encourage stakeholders to take the findings very seriously » Professor Kowero said.
Most of the research works used qualitative and quantitative data, opinion samplings, focal group discussions, documentary reviews landslide images in their findings.
For Professor Avana Marie-Louis of director of programs at AFF and University lecturer, reseachers also have to work as a team to better exchange and improve the quality of their works.
« Collaboration, exchange of exeperiences only helps in improve knowledge and performance. That is one of the objective of this AFF organised workshop » Dr Avana says.
According to Dr Joshua K Cheboiwo, chief research officer and director KEFRI,there was an urgent need for African to invest in forestry manufacturing that will create enormous opportunities in backward and forward linkages. Such investments he says will enhance sustainable economic development, lead to poverty alleviation, employment creation, environmental good and services and fight against climate change.
« Africa needs huge investment in forest production, processing and trade.Manufactured products like paper, construction, furniture, packaging, printing, textile will generate surplus forex, he said.
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