The regional workshop to validate the African Union Sustainable Forest Management Programme Framework was held on 8 to 10 July 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop was organised by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and brought together 43 African Union member states represented by directors and senior experts from forestry departments of member countries, representatives of 5 Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and partner organizations. The African Forest Forum participated as one of the key partners in African forestry.

The overall objective of the workshop was to finalise the African Union Sustainable Forest Management Programme Framework (SFMP) through a technical review, and to build consensus on the framework prior to submission for approval by the African Union Ministerial Specialised Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.

The African Union SFMP was developed in response to the 2014 Malabo Declaration of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinee Decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.538(XXIII)” on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. The Declaration directed the AUC, in collaboration with African ministers responsible for forestry and energy, to put in place the SFMP to assist AU member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to sustainably manage and develop their forest sectors for socio-economic development and environmental protection. The SFMP was drafted through a series of experts’ and stakeholders’ consultations, and the validation workshop was aimed at ensuring that African countries agree on the technical content of the document. The African Forest Forum was instrumental in putting together the initial thoughts on what could comprise a sustainable forest management programme framework for Africa from a technical perspective.

In his opening speech Mr Nyambe Harsen Nyambe Head of Division for Environment, Climate Change, Water and Land Management at the African Union Commission stressed the importance of the African Union SFMP, for providing strategic guidance to the sector, serving as a basis for addressing forestry related challenges on the continent including illegal exploitation and trade of forest resources, and for partnerships. He also called upon the delegates to ensure that the framework is aligned to the Africa development blueprint, Agenda 2063, which calls for all forests to be conserved and sustainably used by 2063.

Participants deliberated on the content of the AU SFMP and assessed the extent to which it would contribute to sustainable management and development of forest sectors for socio-economic development and environmental protection of African countries. After extensive deliberations the participants revised and agreed on the structure of the document, the objectives and priorities. The agreed priorities will guide actions focusing on the value of forests, markets, processing and trade; capacity development and knowledge management; policies and institutional frameworks; restoration of degraded forests and landscapes; and partnerships and resource mobilisation. The participants also considered a mechanism for the implementation of the AU SFMP and agreed on a road map.

The African Forest Forum was represented by senior staff at the AFF Secretariat namely Dr Marie Louise Avana-Tientcheu, Dr Doris Mutta, Dr Noel H Bouda and Dr Vincent Oeba. They also took the opportunity to share some of the knowledge products recently launched at the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of AFF, and secured contacts with countries where AFF is poorly represented such as Tunisia, Egypt, Guinea Bissau and Morocco.