Contemporary development trajectories over the years have continued to advance human well-being through phenomenal growth and wealth, never witnessed before in human history. With these advances have emerged environmental impacts that continuously threaten the planet earth. Forests have suffered the most in the course of human development through deforestation for raw material, shelter, infrastructure and food to feed the ever-increasing human population. From all indications, the planet is gradually moving toward exceeding its boundaries. Several initiatives have emerged to address the challenges that have emanated from the global development trajectories. For example, the last two decades have witnessed such initiatives as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and several international forestry and climate processes. Agreements on the post 2015-development agenda, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been adopted. In all of these, the concept of green economy continues to feature as an approach that can result in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The forest sector remains crucial to the attainment of the objectives of green economy.
This study investigates the forest sector potential for green economy growth, as well as some aspects of Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) in Anglophone West African countries of Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone using a combination of desk work and field studies. Observed drivers of LULUCF in the study area include population growth, agriculture, infrastructure development, uncontrolled and illegal logging. The study also identified some key elements within the forestry sector that contribute to green economy and LULUCF that leave minimal negative impacts on the ecological and social systems, as well as pathways that can enhance green economic growth. They include intensification of crop and livestock agriculture, adoption and strengthening of agroforestry practices, improvements in energy efficiency, improving efficiency in wood harvesting and processing, sustainable harvesting of other forest products, domestication of the supply of non-wood forest products, diversification of livelihood options, reforestation and afforestation initiatives and activities, as well as improved regulation of allocation of land for settlements and infrastructure. Innovative approaches proffered to manage forests for contribution to green economy include: adoption and strengthening of community based forest management, advancing the practice of agroforestry, promotion of sustainable biotrade, promotion of carbon offset markets, adoption of payment for forest environmental services, as well as promotion of forest-based tourism, landscaping and beautification, in addition to adoption of reduced impact logging, and forest certification.
Recommendations are made for improving institutional and regulatory frameworks to facilitate forestry sector contribution to green growth. The key elements of these are improving forest governance and policy re-orientation, reviewing of extant forest laws, adoption of new forestry technologies and training, proper staffing of forestry institutions and agencies, building networks and collaborations with stakeholders, and cross-sectoral engagement. There is also the need to ensure forestry input into national planning. Practicing sustainable forest management in order to secure the full range of forests’ economic, social and environmental contributions is germane to success.