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Central Africa redefines forest, deforestation for wellbeing of people

Central Africa is covered by 314 million hectares of forests. Rich in wildlife from rare butterflies to great apes, the forests also provide food, water and shelter for more than 180 million people and is a huge carbon sink. Despite its enormous importance for humanity, the Congo Basin forests are under threats from unsustainable exploitation of it resources. With its potential demographic explosion – statistics from the UN commission for Africa show the population of Central Africa will grow to over 400 million by 2050 – the forest resources in Central Africa are under pressure to meet growing demands from the urban centres, regional and international markets.

Central Africa is covered by 314 million hectares of forests. Rich in wildlife from rare butterflies to great apes, the forests also provide food, water and shelter for more than 180 million people and is a huge carbon sink. Despite its enormous importance for humanity, the Congo Basin forests are under threats from unsustainable exploitation of it resources. With its potential demographic explosion – statistics from the UN commission for Africa show the population of Central Africa will grow to over 400 million by 2050 – the forest resources in Central Africa are under pressure to meet growing demands from the urban centres, regional and international markets.
Given that most of the forest resources, besides timber, supplied to the urban centres and feeding the industries for transformation for local consumption and exportation come from rural areas, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), is organizing a workshop, in collaboration with WWF, UNESCO and European Union, to define the characteristics of forests, deforestation and forest degradation for the wellbeing of nature and people.
The workshop that takes place in Brazzaville, Congo from August 3 to 5, 2021, groups experts in agriculture and forestry from 11 ECCAS members countries, representatives of the African Union, COMIFAC, NEPAD, civil society organizations, development partners (UNESCO, FAO, UNDP, BDEAC, CIFOR), amongst others. It seeks to contribute to the elimination of constraints on the participation of natural resources of plant origin and agricultural products from rural areas in the sustainable socio-economic development of ECCAS member countries.
Participants are reviewing the different existing definitions and defining the terms "forest", "deforestation" and "forest degradation" adapted to the ecological context and vision of participation of Central Africa's forests in sustainable development.
 “Central Africa must develop by accelerating the transformation of its natural capital to productive capital in strict respect of forest conservation,” states Honore Tabuna, ECCAS Commissioner in charge of Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Minister of Forest Economy for the Republic of Congo, Mrs. Rosalie Matondo, who presided at the workshop, said, “we must be aware that the development policies legitimately implemented by ECCAS member states would necessarily lead to the further development of our natural resources with the corollary of numerous cases of overlapping use or encroachment on forest areas “, she said.
According to Laurent Some, Director of Policy and Partnership for WWF in Africa, issues of sustainable management of forest, deforestation and restoration of forest landscapes are at the centre of WWF’s preoccupation.
“WWF is party to diverse regional and global initiatives aimed at fighting against deforestation and conversion of natural forests for other uses,” Laurent Some said.  “This workshop is a unique opportunity for Central African countries to position themselves in the national, regional and international commodity markets, which is the legitimate aspiration to stimulate and support effort for the socio-economic relaunch and a green and just recovery post COVID-19,” he said.
 “We are encouraging Central African countries to build stronger synergy in an effort to effectively accelerate sustainable socio-economic development, while ensuring the sustainability of the natural capital which the forest represents, combating climate change and strengthening the adaptation and resilience of indigenous people and local communities,” Laurent Some added.
“This will imply to redefine the insertion and the positioning of the ECCAS countries in the global value chains of their products from natural resources,” said Jean Bakouma, WWF’s Congo Basin Conservation Director.
According to the European Union Ambassador in the Republic of Congo, Raul Mateus Paula, “our development model has portrayed its limits that must not be crossed. "It is more than important that this workshop, beyond forest concepts, inaugurate an innovative and constructive approach to the development of a sustainable forest economy in Central Africa,” he said.
Rosalie Matondo, Minister of Forestry Economy, Republic of Congo: The Congo Basin forests provide vital ecosystem services for humanity
Honore Tabuna: ECCAS Commissioner in charge of Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development: Central Africa must develop by accelerating the transformation of its natural capital to productive capital
Laurent Some: Director of Policy and Partnership WWF Africa: This is a unique opportunity for Central African countries to position themselves in the national, regional and international commodity markets
Congo Basin forests are still relatively intact but must be exploited sustainably for the wellbeing of people and nature

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