Announcing the Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa.
On 21 March 2016, Honourable Dr. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources, inaugurated the Hub during a celebration of the International Day of Forests in Kigali, Rwanda. He stated, “Restoring our landscapes brings prosperity, security and opportunity. With forest landscape restoration we have seen agricultural yields rise, and farmers in our rural communities diversify their livelihoods and improve their well-being. Forest landscape restoration is not just an environmental strategy, it is an economic and social development strategy as well; and we are committed to continue these endeavors and take them further.”
On behalf of IUCN, Stewart Magginis, Director of the Forest and Climate Change Programme, added that IUCN will continue to provide strategic and technical leadership to all countries committed to the Bonn Challenge. The regional Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa will provide technical capacity and effective measurement mechanisms for restoration activities, mobilise resources and knowledge sharing, and be a reliable source of accurate and current data about restoration initiatives across the region.
IUCN involvement in FLR in the region began several years ago and evolved into a pilot study for the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) to identify priority landscapes for restoration in Rwanda. From there, efforts have grown and IUCN continues to work with other countries in the region including: Malawi, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. The Hub is expected to continue building on these efforts and increase linkages between the public and private sectors. It will serve to coordinate stakeholders for learning and exchanges on best practices by creating a nursery network, building the capacity of seed centres and providing technical restoration packages, among many other benefits.
Honourable Jesca Eriyo, the Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community, confirmed that the launch of the new hub is in line with Bonn Challenge goals in the region. Rwanda committed to restore two million hectares of land and forests by 2020. Burundi also committed to restore two million hectares. Uganda committed to 2.5 million hectares and Kenya has committed 5.1 million hectares. In regards to the importance of the Hub, Hon. Eriyo stated, “Annually over 55,000 million hectares are degraded in the region. And this is affecting ecosystems, biodiversity and tourism. We have to build the capacity of the centre to deal with such issues. Restoration needs resources and we have to educate community — give them other alternatives.”
Stressing the regional links between forests and water management, Hon. Dr. Biruta reinforced that forests are also key instruments to restoring national waters that flow to other areas surrounding the country. “Tonnes of our soils are lost annually, flowing through our rivers due to erosion. We need to share, as a region, knowledge and experiences in dealing with this problem,” he said.
The new Forest Landscape Restoration Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa aims to address regional landscape-wide issues just like the ones that Hon. Dr. Biruta and Hon. Eriyo stressed – and so much more.