Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 78

76 - Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites
he value of tropical forests for
often appear to be self-evident in
national policy and global environmental
discourses. Despite this, deforestation
or deliberate elimination of forest
cover by man for agriculture, especially
for smallholder agriculture, is widely
accepted as a fully rational decision.
Therefore, forests in the context of
sustainable development remain a
complex, even a divisive issue at local,
national and international levels. The
major threats appear to be changing
from actions brought about by people
meeting their needs to society’s rational
responses to decades of separation of
people from their forests. Conventional
agriculture is a major threat to forests
in West and Central Africa. Over the
past two decades, this may have been
true for 0,1% rate of forest loss in
Cameroon, and about 0,04% in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. But
today and over the next five to ten
years, plantation agriculture and
collateral infrastructure are likely
to become more important causes
of forest loss in West and Central
Africa, as they were a few decades
ago in Brazil and Indonesia.
But the real drivers are the laws
which separate people from the
forest, thereby undervaluing forests
for them.
The danger of archaic policies
Some conservation policies keep local
people in poverty, rendering them so
vulnerable that they welcome large-scale
plantation investments with open arms.
These action policies and alliances that
propped up conservation two decades ago
actually prepared the ground for today’s
rapid forest loss. Archaic and exclusive
forest conservation policies and their
implementation will effectively remain
the greatest dangers unless professionals
can urgently develop mechanisms which
make managed forests and forest lands
more valuable to people standing than
The problems of forest loss stem from
a historical and colonial perspective. The
countries that occupied West and Central
Africa implemented an exclusivist policy,
separating communities from forests and
usurping their ownership and territorial
rights. After independence, a common
strategy to secure state ownership of
forests, favoring an internationalization
of access, has been to ignore, trivialize
and disregard indigenous knowledge and
practices and inmany cases replace it with
Forests, our hope
Protection of the environment also involves
schools and children who can encourage
awareness by their parents. Drawing by Mamadou
Sadou Bah, Complexe scolaire Saint Georges,
Republic of Guinea.
Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), Africa’s first female Nobel prize laureate,
planting a tree in Kenya. Planting trees grew into the Green Belt Movement,
dedicated to safeguarding the environment, protecting human rights, and
defending democracy. Image from the film ‘Taking roots’.
Courtesy of Marlboro Productions, Lisa Merton and Alan Dater.
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