African Forest Policies Crowned Best in World

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The prize is awarded annually by the World Future Council, a foundation that brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making. The jury which decided on the winning policies was composed of experts on sustainability and forests from all five continents.

Runners-up were forest policies from Bhutan, Nepal and Switzerland. The US Lacey Act’s 2008 amendment, which bans the import of illegally harvested wood, received the second Silver Award.

Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and create a healthy environment,? explains Wangari Maathai, Founder of the Green Belt Movement, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Honorary World Future Councillor.

The Gambia’s Forest Department was one of the first administrations in Africa to introduce a community forest management approach. It has managed to achieve a net forest cover increase of 8.5 percent over the last two decades and is now being rewarded for it.

The jury has voted for two African policies that empower people, says Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council.

The winning African policies are so successful because they acknowledge that environment, economy and empowerment are strongly interconnected.? Experts say that transferring land and resource ownership to local communities is a way out of the tragedy of the commons, and positive spillover effects can empower local African populations to take charge of their lives.

Today, the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people across the globe depend on forests. Deforestation, climate change, ecosystem destruction, food and water crises and financial turmoil are problems that call for courageous regulatory intervention.

Despite continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is one of only three countries in Central and Western Africa to achieve a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover. Its National Forest Policy, with the ambition of making forestry one of the bedrocks of the economy and of the national ecological balance, was implemented in 2004 and later updated in 2010.

The government is currently implementing an Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy which considers the reversal of deforestation to be a crucial factor in alleviating poverty, and has set the goal of increasing forest cover to 30 percent of the country by 2020. Forest cover has already increased by 37 percent since 1990.

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