Twenty-four African countries on Tuesday launched a new drive to enhance efforts to restore forests in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.
The Landscape Restoration Hub for the Eastern and Southern Africa countries was launched in Kigali on the occasion of the International Forests Day.
The hub will specifically be looking at ways to provide technical support, funding and incentives to forest restoration programs in more than 24 countries of the region, Charles Karangwa, the hub coordinator explained.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a partner, conducted the first opportunity assessment and mapping report to identify priority landscapes to be restored.
The initiative is hoped to increase linkage and coordination between public and private sector.
Speaking at the occasion, Jesca Eriyo, the deputy Secretary General of the five-member East African Community bloc, said the initiative is in line with Bonn challenge which is the largest world initiative on forest landscape restoration launched in Germany in 2011.
Under the drive, government, civil societies and private sector target to restore 150 million hectares of forests by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
This target by 2020 could bring net benefits of over 85 billion US dollars per year to national economies while by 2030 benefits could rise to 5.5 trillion US dollars.
Ms Eriyo said annually over 55,000 million of hectares of forests are degraded in the region.
This, she said, is affecting ecosystems, biodiversity, and tourism.
‘‘We have to build the capacity of the centre to deal with such issues-restoration needs resources and we have to educate community, give them other alternatives,” she said.
The International Forests Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests for the benefit of current and future generations. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s minister of Natural Resources stressed that forests are key in restoring national water sources.
Participants at the Kigali event also called on countries to control population growth, and encourage use of alternative energy sources to reduce pressure on forests. Over 80 per cent population of the region reportedly relies on wood for fuel.