The tenth anniversary of the African Forest Forum (AFF), was organized in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), was held at the Amani Gardens, Karura Forest grounds in Nairobi, Kenya. It was attended by over 200 participants from across Africa and outside the continent, representing governments and public agencies, international organizations, the private sector, academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations (CBOs).
“We started this journey on December 06, 2007 when AFF was registered as a not-for-profit NGO in Nairobi Kenya, and with a grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in 2008, which helped us, among other things, to set up AFF as a platform that could support African forestry stakeholders to discuss and mobilise resources for improved management and use of their forest and tree resources. A second grant from the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency (SDC), has strengthened AFF as an institution that is gradually being recognized and respected as another key actor on the African forestry scene” said Prof Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary-CEO at AFF.
In his opening remarks, Prof Godwin Kowero, emphasized the need for a new narrative for Africa, that captures the urgency of the environmental challenges facing the continent and the world at large, and the role of forests and trees outside forests at the centre of human, animal and plant survival on the continent. He also highlighted AFF’s efforts on issues related to: management of trees and forests in different landscapes and in the context of climate change; forest certification; quality supply and management of tree germplasm; and forest and tree pests and diseases. He emphasized the role of AFF as a knowledge brokerage institution in generating and sharing information and knowledge. He underlined the work AFF has done in supporting African delegates with capacity to develop common positions, negotiation strategies, and effectively articulating their issues in international forestry related dialogues. In view of this, it was noted that the wealth of information generated through these activities provided a sound basis to develop and expand the forestry sector in Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the FAO Regional Office for Africa, and the representative for the FAO Southern Africa office, Mr. Edward Kilawe, commended AFF as a key partner in promoting and developing forestry in Africa. He reiterated FAO’s gratitude for the collaborative approach it has had with AFF that has enabled the institution to support Africa’s regional and country strategies and policies on sustainable forest management and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mr. Almami Dampha, a Senior Policy Officer with the Rural Economy and Agriculture Department of the African Union Commission (AUC), recognized the vision and foresight of the AFF founding members towards establishment of the institution. He also appreciated the Government and people of Kenya for providing a conducive environment to host the regional entity. Other partners equally acknowledged by him in supporting AFF included ICRAF, UNFF, UN agencies, FAO, RECs, and development partners/the donor community. He reaffirmed the commitment of AUC in working with all partners towards Agenda 2063- a socioeconomic transformation framework for the next 50 years
Ms. Ulla Andrén, the Regional Head of Development Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa at the Embassy of Sweden in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, commended AFF for creating a collective voice for forestry on the continent and beyond. She encouraged further inclusion of women’s leadership in the forestry sector for increased productivity and economic benefits. In the same token, Mr. Patrick Sieber, Programme Manager, Swedish Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), indicated a sense of pride in AFF’s growth as an institution and re-affirmed commitment towards its long standing and rewarding partnership.
Mr. Macarthy Oyebo, Chair of the AFF Governing Council, provided an overview into AFF’s journey over the past decade to become the leading platform of stakeholders in African forestry. In the process, he extended gratitude to all African governments, partners and stakeholders who enabled the institution to achieve its targets and also provided a conducive environment for its work. He also appreciated the kind financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to undertake a number of project activities in Africa. He further informed delegates that AFF had redefined its approach to conceiving and managing its work through a programmatic approach that is guided by its own strategy and the priority areas of action identified by the African forestry fraternity.
Mr. Gideon Gathaara, Conservation Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry lauded the efforts of the African Forest Forum (AFF) for a decade of service to African forestry, and the achievements attained within the short period. He stated that deforestation and forest degradation remained challenges that hindered the ability of African countries to address poverty. For this reason, he took note of the considerable work AFF had done in providing useful information from its continent-wide studies. The development of such information, he further noted, could support evidence-based decision making to improve management and wise use of forest and tree resources.
The celebrations were also marked by a number of events that included: a regional workshop on ‘sharing of information, knowledge and experiences in African Forestry’; and two regional training workshops on (1)‘sustainable forest management and leadership for policy makers in Africa ‘and (2) ‘forest governance for Eastern and Southern Africa.’ With an impressive list of speakers from many partners, the workshops showcased results obtained from the work of by AFF and its partners during the last five years.
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