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General News of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Source: GNA

African forestry sector critical to climate change debate - FAO

Accra, Feb. 19, GNA - The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has again highlighted the critical role forests play in climate change, saying the forestry sector, mainly deforestation in tropical areas, causes 17 per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases. "Sustainable forest management is a necessary component of a global strategy to combat climate change," Jan Heino, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry, said on Monday during the opening day of the first-ever joint meetings between the Near East Forestry Commission and the Africa Forestry and Wildlife Commission in Khartoum, Sudan. A statement from FAO in Accra on Tuesday said trees were even more important in countries that did not have a large forest area. The meetings in Khartoum are the largest single gathering in history of the heads of national forestry and wildlife agencies in the two regions.

The wildlife experts will develop strategies to address the conflict between humans and wildlife, which destroy hundreds of hectares of food crops and claim human lives each year in Africa. FAO said over 80 per cent of wood was used for energy in Africa, mainly for cooking and heating.

In the Near East, most wood products are imported, and oil products are the main source of energy. Heino said the importance of forests in the energy strategies for countries in both regions would be addressed throughout the week of meetings in Khartoum. "Clean water is increasingly scarce in many parts of Africa and the Near East. The joint sessions will consider options for improving the conservation of water, with a focus on new approaches to watershed management that take into consideration the impact of human development activities in each watershed," he said. Heino said the commissions would also consider ways to improve the management of wildfires.

"Africa accounts for about half of the area burned by wildfires throughout the world. As global temperatures rise, the need to manage wildfires increases." The joint meetings bring together about 160 participants from more than 50 countries, including Ministers, heads of national forestry and wildlife agencies, representatives from the private sectors and non-governmental organizations, and United Nations experts. Discussions will emphasize ways to mobilize resources and ways to improve international cooperation to address these critical issues.

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