The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have joined forces to protect West Africa's forests and help safeguard the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.
The three institutions will carry out a five-year project aimed at strengthening sustainable forest and land management, addressing transboundary forest threats, maximising the livelihoods of forest-depended communities, and building climate resilience across 15 countries in West Africa.
The project - to be implemented by ECOWAS with financial support of over $8 million from Sida and technical support from FAO - will improve knowledge of forests dynamics, support legal reform, establish and share best community-based forest practices across the region. It will be key to the rolling out of the ECOWAS-led Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and Use of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa adopted in 2013 by ECOWAS to mobilize political, institutional, financial and technical support to address transboundary forest issues across ECOWAS's 15 member states.
"We are very pleased to be partners with ECOWAS and FAO on transboundary forest management in West Africa. It is a very important project for the people and governments of the region, but also for the global efforts to stop climate change and loss of biodiversity," said Ulla Andrén, Sida's Head of Regional Development Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"It is because of strong partnerships that we have the Forest Convergence Plan," said Tiina Vahanen, FAO's Chief of Forestry Policy and Resources Division. "Now it's time to act on it. The project is a concrete step towards improved forest management in the region and will build on the momentum created in recent years to safeguard West Africa's forests."
"The ECOWAS Commission is happy to work jointly with Sida and FAO to implement this project. We appreciate Sida for the consistent support to ECOWAS over the years, particularly the Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources Department, to address issues of environment, climate change, water resources, and now forestry. Issues of forestry are issues of livelihood for people and communities. Building resilience to climate change impacts and sustainable transboundary forest ecosystems management are key to this project," said Johnson Boanuh, ECOWAS Commission's Environment Director.
Forests and woodlands vital for West Africa's people and biodiversity, yet under treat
Covering about 72 million hectares, West Africa's forests and wetlands are an important source of fuel, food and livelihood for millions of people. They are also home to a wide range of vulnerable endemic animal species, and more than 200 plant species.
Yet, they are exceedingly affected by deforestation and degradation caused by various drivers including unsustainable agricultural expansion and illegal logging. These are often exacerbated by transboundary issues such as trade between regions or within a region, which require strengthened forest governance and capacity at a regional level. The loss of forest cover in West Africa was four times higher between 1990-2015 than at global level.
Towards better forest management across West Africa
In response to these threats, ECOWAS, with support from FAO and other partners, developed the Forest Convergence Plan to ensure that transboundary issues are addressed in national action plans, and to provide a strategic foundation for transformational change across the region.
The new project will support the implementation of the priorities outlined in the Forest Convergence Plan, including: improving knowledge of forest resources and harmonising legislative frameworks for forest policy.
It will develop a regional knowledge portal to improve access to data and share information on best forest management practices; provide legal recommendations and guidelines on forest management; support community groups to implement sustainable forest and land management; and build global capacity and knowledge by South -South cooperation and sharing best forest management practices.
The project will also support the implementation of other national and international commitments of West African countries, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
A villager walks through a baobab forest in Niger. Baobab leaves and fruits are sources of food for people and fodder for animals