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FAO holds 6th annual meeting of Steering Committee on global forest transformation

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By Olimatou Coker

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in partnership with sub-regional stakeholders on Tuesday  and Wednesday held its 6th  annual meeting of the Steering Committee on the Global Forest Transformation for People and Climate  Focus on West  Africa Project at Bakadaji Hotel.

The meeting brought participants from the 15 ECOWAS member countries that  reviewed and adopted the 2023 annual report as well as the 2024 annual work plan. Discussions also focused on the activities planned for 2024 and the validation of the 2024 budget.

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The overall objective of the project is to strengthen decision-making on forests and land management by improving knowledge of forest dynamics, supporting the reform of forest legal frameworks, and demonstrating and sharing community-based best forestry practices across the West African sub-region and globally.

The project is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is implemented throughout the ECOWAS region and involves civil society, the private sector, state technical services and research institutions.

Shibu Rampedi, FAO Representative to The Gambia, said the project seeks to address among other things transboundary forest management and climate resilience in West Africa.

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She renewed her office’s commitment to partner with stakeholders to address challenges affecting climate and food insecurity,

“The collaboration between the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the ECOWAS Community of West African States underscores our shared commitment to address transboundary forest issues and foster regional cooperation”.

She added that the sub-region faces many challenges and bears the brunt of the effects of climate change, even though Africa contributes only 1.8% to global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the agricultural sector, which is crucial in the region, accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and, along with forest exploitation, is one of the main drivers of deforestation. According to the FAO (FRA 2020), annual forest loss in West and Central Africa is estimated at 1.9 million hectares between 2015 and 2020.

Dr. Gouantoueu Robert Guei, Coordinator of the FAO sub-regional office for West Africa, said for this year, according  to the results  of the harmonized framework, some 38.1million people in the Sahel and West Africa region will be in a situation of acute food insecurity phase 3 to 5 between March and May 2024. If nothing is done, this number could rise to around 52 million between June and August, which is generally the lean season.

“Faced with these challenges, FAO and ECOWAS have joined forces in a lasting partnership that has enabled the initiation and implementation of a significant number of projects and programmes in the areas of resilience to food insecurity, restoration of land, landscapes and forests, animal production and health, fisheries, irrigation, protection of crops against pests, agroecology, promotion of the ‘hand in hand’ initiative, youth employability in various sectors, rice development and other initiatives such as ‘one country, one product’ and the “green city” initiative”

Hon. Rohey John Manjang, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, said the Gambia like other  Sahelian countries in the sub region faces challenges relating to low agricultural productivity, biodiversity loss, land dégredation,  decertification and youth migration.

She renewed government’s commitment and strides made in partnering with stakeholders in building climate resilience and food security.

“As a government we value our natural resources and are fully committed to protecting our forests and woodland cover in this light government in 2015, and 2017, with technical support from the FAO transferred ownership and management responsibility of Community Forests back to local communities to increase their access and guarantee tenure security and socio economic benefits to these local communities. The committee for its management program introduced in the 1990s has been exemplary in the old of Africa. And as we speak today, more than 400 communities are participating in this program, and are managing more than 36,000 hectares of forests as community forests.”

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