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New Tropical Forest Tenure Assessment highlighted in international media
On 26 May, the BBC News highlighted a new report produced by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The Tropical Forest Tenure Assessment focuses on the urgent need for forest tenure reform in Africa and calls for the creation and support of forest enterprises. The report is being released at a RRI and ITTO coorganized conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The conference on tenure, governance and enterprises, seeks to spark new initiatives in establishing tenure rights in West and Central Africa.
Noting Africa’s alarmingly high deforestation rate—four times the world’s average—the article cited RRI’s research showing that less than 2% of Africa’s forests are under community control. The article noted the Assessment authors’ warnings that “failure to ensure land rights for indigenous people and particularly women, will impede efforts to stop deforestation and mitigate climate change.”
Although several African nations have altered or implemented laws to strengthen community land rights, RRI coordinator Andy White told the BBC that such reforms alone are inadequate to fully address rapid deforestation. “Governments need to follow up by supporting local management and enterprises,” said White. “There are some countries that have recognized local land rights, but the government still controls the forest, and hands out concessions to industrial loggers—leading to more degradation and corruption.”
A promising idea for promoting responsible local agency in forest management is payment for reducing deforestation, which the BBC notes as a potential source of income in African forest communities. However, the success of this model, like most opportunities to improve forest people’s livelihoods, depends on significant tenure reform. On the national level, the BBC observed that Cameroon has begun negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the European Union to “ensure that wood products exported from Cameroon to the EU contain no illegally harvested timber and are derived from managed forests that benefit local communities.”
The article concludes by quoting Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director of ITTO, who strongly advocates scaling up tenure reforms. Ze Meka points to the need for timely reforms to harness the full potential of pro-poor economic opportunities, many of which are illegal according to current laws and relegated to the shadow economy. Says Ze Meka, “Africa's forest communities already generate millions of jobs and dollars in domestic and regional trade, and in indigenous livelihoods, but current laws keep some of these activities illegal and also undermine opportunities to improve forest management.”
Tropical Forest Tenure Assessment: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities
Rights and Resources & International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)
The report was also highlighted in the record of the Environmental Audit Committee, UK House of Commons.
Key Data Factsheet
Key data from “RRI-ITTO Tropical Tenure Assessment”
Posted By Marina France at 2:00pm on May 26, 2009
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