1 Aug 2022
Namibia's forests are under threat. This was one of the key messages at a conference in Windhoek. Under the motto "The Future of Namibia's Forests", representatives of the Namibian government and experts from home and abroad discussed the problems and solutions.
The forest areas are located in the north-east of the country, where the average annual rainfall is higher than in the rest of Namibia. In addition, there are the gallery forests along the border rivers Kunene in the northwest and Gariep (Orange) in the south, as well as along some of the dry Rivers.
In 2020, this amounted to a total of about 60,000 square kilometres - 8.1 percent of Namibia's total area. This is according to an inventory by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). This means that the forest area has shrunk by about one fifth since Namibia's independence in 1990.
The causes of the decline are annual fires, excessive logging and the clearing of large areas to expand settlements and fields. Mining, currently the search for oil, is also destroying forest areas. Not to mention climate change; it is getting warmer and drier in the affected areas.
Also poverty in rural areas. As an example, Chris Brown, executive director of the environmental umbrella organisation Namibian Chamber of Environment, cited the construction of homesteads in northern Namibia. With rising incomes, he said, the wooden walls and palisades there have been replaced by walls.
In presentations and debates, several proposals were raised to better protect existing forest areas and to create new forest areas. By proclaiming three state forest nature reserves, which have been earmarked for this purpose for some time. Through a national control system with a forest protection body. Through a programme to curb annual fires and afforestation, specifically tailored to areas and their conditions, and through sustainable use.
It was agreed the without the participation of the local communities, forest protection and reforestation could not be carried out. Instead of indigenous species, one could use introduced tree species, which are at least suitable for the production of poles. In addition, a share in revenues from future emission certificates would be conceivable.
Tourism opens up another possibility for sustainable use. Especially in the vicinity of lodges in the Kavango West and Zambezi regions, guided tours for tourists could be offered, explaining the ecosystem of the forest and the traditional use of the plants. The mighty Baobab trees in the Kavango East Region are already an attraction.
The conference was held in partnership of the Namibian government with international and national organisations. Among them were the European Union as financier and the German Hanns Seidel Foundation and its Namibian partner, the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, as organisers. Among the participants were the FAO and the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA).
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