Nobel Laureate Wangare Maathai has called on Africa to put more efforts in the conservation and rehabilitation of forests in the region.
Prof Maathai said most governments did not prioritise the conservation of forests leading to their widespread degradation as the demand for agricultural land increased.
“We have said now and again that African governments have got their priorities wrong at least in terms of giving priority to budgetary allocations meant for environmental conservation.
“Most governments tend to give more allocations to defence as they watch the forests being destroyed. It is a high time this changes.”
While addressing an international news conference at the ongoing climate change talks in Poznan, Poland Prof Maathai said states must exert their authority in ensuring that indigenous forests were protected.
“Throughout the continent, forests cover are diminishing. The main culprits are the communities living next to the resource, who destroy them by means of slash and burn.
“Governments must therefore support these local communities by encouraging that they plant trees in their farms otherwise known as agro forestry. This will go a long way in the protection of forests against unnecessary invasions thus protecting the world against unnecessary emissions.”
Statistics indicate that more than 20 percent of green house gasses released to the atmosphere arise from deforestation and land degradation in most developing countries.
Experts warn that such countries are at a high risk of suffering the consequences of climate change from this, which has serious implications on economic growth, sustainable development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
“Resources must therefore be brought forth to ensure that our environment, not only forests, are adequately conserved.”
The Laureate, who is also the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Forests Ecosystems, said both the Norwegian and the British governments had jointly released more than 220 US million dollars to aid the conservation of the Congo forest basin.
Prof Maathai spoke ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is set to kick off Thursday.
Ministers from more than 180 countries attending the conference will converge for the first time since the landmark UN climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss initiatives towards a new global climate change pact.
UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon, four Heads of States and Government as well as 145 Environment ministers are expected at the summit.
As of Wednesday evening, it was not clear whether Kenya will participate in discussions since the government delegation expected to be led by Environment Minister Mr John Michuki had not arrived.
The Poznan conference, which has drawn more than 11,600 participants, constitute the half way mark in the negotiations on an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 and to take effect in 2013.
This is the year the first phase of the Kyoto protocol expires.