Benin validates its national convergence plan on forests
Benin is engaged in the convergence plan development process for the management and sustainable use of forest ecosystems in West Africa.
Forest management actors of Benin met on 28 and 29 March 2012 at the hotel du Lac in Cotonou, Benin under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Town Planning of Benin. The workshop witnessed strong participation from state officials, civil society, the private sector as well as technical and financial partners.
About sixty participants participated in discussions and exchanges that led to the validation of the convergence plan process and the final document for Benin.
The validation of the convergence plan enabled Benin to join Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, the Gambia, and Togo, which have already validated their national plans within the framework of the West Africa dialogue on forests, coordinated by ECOWAS. This inclusive regional process has as its overall objective, to incite and encourage West African countries to manage forest and wildlife resources in a sustainable and concerted manner for the wellbeing of communities and the preservation of the West African environment.
The convergence plan workshop of Benin will be remembered by the words of the Minister Blaise Onesiphorus Glèlè Ahanhanzo,who exhorted participants to "... engage realistic and fruitful discussions with solutions that will impact the security of gazetted forests of Benin, conservation of biological diversity, capacity building of all stakeholders, effective stakeholder participation, strengthen legislative and regulatory mechanisms, promote valuation of timber and non-timber products, propose alternative activities for poverty reduction, and institutional reforms of the forestry sector...". The workshop will also be remembered by the words of Jean Marc GARREAU, IUCN’s West and Central Africa Regional Program Coordinator who indicated that IUCN perceives the convergence plan as "... a powerful locomotive at full steam which drives all passengers of West Africa in one direction, such that ten years from now, forests will constitute the economic center of Benin and its West Africa neighbors...".
As a matter of fact, forests cover 42% of Benin's territory and participate significantly in the creation of wealth in the country. They provide all the goods and services associated with tropical trees and forests. According to specialized data sources, the country’s forestry sector generated a total of 3,886,000 USD in 2005. Associated with Protected Areas, they forests are principally responsible for accommodating 2,500 vascular plant species and the 755 species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles of the country. However, the wildlife and biodiversity refuge functions of the increasingly threatened river bank or riparian and gallery forests of Benin are the most coveted.