Statement of Luc GNACADJA UNCCD Executive secretary

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1 19th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) 3rd African Forestry and Wildlife Week (AFWW) Windhoek, Republic of Namibia, 30 September 2013 Statement of Luc GNACADJA UNCCD Executive secretary Development of Forest and Wildlife Sectors for effective contribution to Food Security and a Green Economy in Africa. Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning! I believe that Windhoek, Namibia is where the agenda of the future of the drylands is taking shape with the UNCCD COP11 concluded last Friday and 19th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) starting today. And I am truly delighted to have been invited to contribute to this opening segment. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General of FAO and director of the Forestry Department for the invitation. Thank you dear Eduardo for the opportunity; it also happens to be the last official function of my six years of tenure as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Dear Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen, One of the dominant environmental features of the twentieth century has been the dramatic decline in forest cover. The process of deforestation and forest fragmentation has had large ecological consequences. It has caused the loss of biodiversity, especially species requiring specialized forest or woodland habitats. And Africa has been one of the most affected region by the phenomenon of forest degradation, especially that of its dry forest, which has built a heavy legacy of desertification and vulnerability to climatic shocks such as drought. 1

2 And the theme of this nineteenth session and third African Forestry and Wildlife Week Development of Forest and Wildlife Sectors for effective contribution to Food Security and a Green Economy in Africa is very pertinent and timely for the region to pursue its renaissance through a robust and sustained growth which will also ensure food security, sharply alleviate poverty and build resilience to climatic shocks. In that regard, the role of forest especially the dry forest cannot be overstated. My key message for you today, ladies and gentlemen is that: Dry forests, the prime habitat of wildlife, are crucial for food security as well as for a sustained and inclusive growth in Africa. Why? For three main reasons: 1. First, because dry forest are the backbone of the productive ecosystems and the livelihoods of the majority of the population of the region. In this region dry lands account for 43% of the land area, 50% of the population, 75% of the agriculture land. About 75% of the poor are living in countries with dry land population above 25% of total population. 2. Second because Africa is very vulnerable to climatic shocks and dry forest are essential assets for building or enhancing the resilience of the people and the ecosystems they directly depend on. The occurrence of droughts affecting over 2 million people has increased from 20% (1970s) to 90% (2000s). In the last 3 years, seven out of the 10 worst drought disasters in the world have been taken in sub-saharan Africa. All global warming scenarios predict a hasher climate in Africa in the decades to come. 3. Third, vulnerability is compounded by land degradation and population growth. Land degradation and its subset 2

3 desertification cost annually in Sub-Saharan African between 6 to 9% agricultural GDP as a result of loss of agricultural land productivity, much more than the global average. As for the population, by 2030, some 350 million people will be added to the existing population of dry lands, further challenging their already limited carrying capacity. But restoring productivity and closing the yield gap with low-tech solutions is within reach using landscape approaches. Here again the role of dry forest in landscape mosaic restoration will be key. Dear Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen, On one hand, during the last decade, Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions of the world, but that growth I yet to substantially reduce poverty and generate food security. On the other hand, half of the additional two billion people who will live on Earth by 2050 will be born in Africa and matching the exploding demand for food, energy and water, such demographic boom implies is both an incredible challenge as well as an opportunity for a robust socio-economic development. Therefore finding pathways to sustainable development is not merely an imperative for Africa. It also holds promise for sharply eradicating extreme rural poverty while ensuring food security and building resilience to climatic shocks. Extreme poverty in the continent is largely a rural dryland phenomenon. Large numbers of people continue to struggle in these often degraded landscapes. These communities heavily depend on the natural capital contained in forests for food, building materials, medicines and other resources. They are often caught in a downward spiral in which they are forced to make increased demands on the limited resources available. As their populations grow along with the demand for 3

4 basic necessities, further resource degradation will occur without a shift to sustainable forest and land use. We should not also overlook the importance of the livestock and pastoralism agenda for the sustainable development of the continent. Pastoralism is a key livelihood system in the African dry lands and a major source of food, cash income and employment. There are about 50 million pastoralists in Sub- Saharan Africa, most of them very poor. But extensive and mobile grazing of livestock on communal rangelands is also source of forest and land degradation as well as conflicts. Overall global warming is becoming a severe compounding factor in most of those regions; the average annual temperature will increase in 2 nd part of this century between 2 and 4 degrees and extreme events will be even more challenging. Ladies and gentlemen, Integrated and inclusive landscape management is the winning strategy. But it calls for a paradigm shift. Integrated approaches to sustainable dryland management are required. The best strategy includes to develop ways of increasing people s access to natural resources, enhance the productivity of these resources and involve communities in resolving natural resources management dilemmas at a variety of scales, while shifting away from climate-related crisis management towards preparedness and risk management. Small isolated patches of restored forest may be locally useful but may have little effect on recovering many of the supporting and regulating services such as those needed for the health and productivity of surrounding agro-ecosystems and to combat erosion in the drylands. That is why a landscape perspective is so critical to successful natural resource management strategies. 4

5 But dry forests restoration is about more than beating poverty. In Brazil and in China and in some other countries, adaptive and farsighted policies are attracting private sector investments for sustainable forest and land restoration in the drylands. These projects highlight that there is scope for balancing the need for food production with forms of reforestation that deliver multiple economic and environmental gains. So, to reverse the tide and shift the paradigm, we must think and operate outside of the forest box. We must value dry forests and embrace holistic approaches to the entire landscape. That is my call. That is my message for you today. Africa must reverse the tide of forest and land degradation. It is the smartest socio-economic investment for the region. Building the vision of a land-degradation neutral world as provided for by Rio+20 summit in paragraph 206 of its outcome document The Future We Want is about steering the landscape approach at all levels. May we never forget that in Africa more than anywhere else, forests keep the drylands working. I wish successful deliberations. 5

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