Capacity building in handling various aspects of climate change, as they relate to African forests and trees, at the national level was the main focus of the African Forest Forum (AFF) during this quarter. AFF organized national training workshops in the Republics of Sudan, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to train professionals on rapid forest carbon stock appraisal, development of project idea note (PIN) together with project design document, familiarization with policies and other aspects related to carbon markets and trade, among others. These training workshops were guided by training modules developed by AFF and partners in 2012/2013, and targeted professionals as well as technical staff that have the duty to mould future staff to work on these issues. Also, the workshops targeted NGOs and extension agents who largely work with local communities, with the intention of imparting this knowledge and skills to these communities as they engage in forest carbon issues. Essentially, the workshops were for trainers at professional, technical and local community levels.
Apart from the training aspects, the workshops provided avenues for sharing information on carbon projects in the individual countries. It became apparent that in some cases, individuals and institutions either lacked a mechanism for internal coordination and information sharing or did not share information related to carbon issues. The workshops provided opportunities to network within countries on these aspects and as such increased the collective or national capacity to address these issues. It also emerged that while some institutions, especially NGOs, were involved in some forest carbon projects, those overseeing such projects lacked the capacity to appreciate and understand what was involved in the technicalities of drawing up such projects, especially on how the carbon was estimated. This is because they relied on consultants who had that specialized knowledge and the skills. The workshops then broadened the scope of those in charge of such projects to better monitor, supervise and guide project activities in the future.
Through the workshops, AFF was able to reach more people at national levels and extend its reach on collaborative activities while increasing the ownership of AFF by its members. Some of the participants who were not members of AFF before the workshops applied for membership, and in this way they will continue to actively participate in activities of the Forum. Also, several requests and demands were made to AFF by the participants, including repeating the course in the countries so as to reach more people. AFF will take up these requests in its future plans and to the extent possible.
In the process of conducting the workshops AFF, through its experts, started to accumulate information that would eventually facilitate the development of a teaching compendium on this module. This will be useful to relevant institutions in terms of teaching these subject areas at professional, technical and refresher course levels.
We are grateful to our experts, governments, training institutions and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) who have helped us reach out to a critical number of 191 individuals through these training workshops. We believe these trainers will make a good contribution to moving the forest carbon agenda forward in their countries and Africa at large.
During this period, AFF participated in a number of other events that were organized by its partners but also, of strategic importance to the institution. In this regard, AFF participated in the first meeting of the Thematic Groups of the West African Forest Convergence Plan (WAFCP) for the validation of the results of the selection of the team leaders and their terms of reference that was held at the ECOWAS Commission Secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria on July 21-23, 2014. Delegates to the meeting included experts from various international and regional organisations among them, the ECOWAS, the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Environment Development Action in the Third World (ENDA), AFF, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), as well as representatives from the member states of Ghana (in-coming Chair) and Côte d’Ivoire (outgoing Chair). AFF was represented by Prof Mahamane Larwanou, the AFF focal person for ECOWAS and myself.
The West African Forest Convergence Plan has been built around seven priority themes, each of which will be led by a theme leader. Lead institutions will work with other institutions at the national and other levels. AFF was chosen to lead work around the theme General environmental information and communication The ECOWAS Secretariat is responsible for mobilizing the financial resources necessary for the work under these seven themes or pillars. Africa Eco-Mark (AEM) presents a good opportunity for Africa to market its products internationally by providing certification standards in the areas of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. AFF collaborates with AEM and is represented in the 4th Working Group on forestry which develops eco-labelling standards for forestry products while ensuring their sustenance in production. During the meeting of the 4th Working Group that was held in this quarter, and with AFF participation through Prof Mahamane, the Working group examined the test report on the standard on forestry and provided guidance on how to further develop the standard.
In this quarter, AFF was also represented at the Second African Drylands Week, an event that was organized in NDjamena, Chad where successes and challenges facing Africas drylands were discussed. AFF and the African Union Commission (AUC) organized a side-event on work undertaken by AFF on land restoration in different sub-regions of sub-Saharan Africa. An outcome of this event is the need to strengthen the production, processing, marketing and trade in gum Arabica and related gums and resins. Already the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa has initiated, together with AFF, FAO, AUC and other partners, efforts on how to move forward on this. Also AFF was represented at the Twenty Second Committee on Forestry (COFO 22) and the World Forestry Week 4 in Rome, Italy. On the sidelines of COFO 22, AFF participated in meetings promoting forestry education in a better structured manner, and through FAO. Finally AFF participated in a conference organized by the World Future Council that brought together Eastern and Southern Africa legislators to Nairobi, Kenya to explore solutions to halt and reverse plight of African forests under the themes of landscape management, forest policies, and forests for people. The Nairobi Declaration, an outcome of the meeting, was a commitment by legislators to encourage the development and implementation of policies that will enhance forest conservation and rehabilitation of degraded lands, in addition to contributing to the welfare of their people.
Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary, AFF.