The New Times (Kigali)

Central Africa: Regional Countries Meet Over Forest Conservation

The biannual meeting on dense and humid forest ecosystems in Central Africa (CEFDHAC) got underway on in Kigali Tuesday with a call to participating countries to effectively utilise natural resources without degrading the forest cover.

Countries taking part include; Cameroon, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Sao Tome and Principe and Equatorial Guinea.

Addressing the participants, the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi said the meeting would act as a platform where each country will demonstrate what is being done to ensure that the environment degradation is controlled.

"This will help us share experiences, address challenges and identify solutions collectively so that each country or respective governments come up with lasting solutions against factors that may lead to environmental degradation as a result of poor methods of exploiting natural resources," said Kamanzi.

Kamanzi highlighted various steps that government of Rwanda has put in place to protect forests.

He said that among others, the government has directly involved the local population in tree planting, giving an example of the national afforestation and reforestation campaign that will nationally be launched on Saturday.

The campaign is one of the measures through which the government is working towards hitting the target of having 30 percent of the country's surface covered by forests.

The ministry indicates that currently Rwanda has 23.7 of forest cover.

However, Kamanzi noted that there are still challenges that need to be addressed especially in respecting the law to protect natural resources, saying that the meeting is expected to come up with suitable measures.

The three day conference will tackle various issues that will also include coming up with mechanisms that will guide stakeholders in the natural resources sectors in the respective countries to work towards a common goal in respect to human rights and national development.

"We want to do away with conflicts that have over time erupted due to misunderstanding among stakeholders in the natural resource sectors," said Patrice Bigombe, a participant from Cameroon.

He explained that conflicts are common among those in the forest department, mining and the agriculture sector basically on land use and who takes responsibility of effects caused by their joint activities.

Bigombe pointed out that this finally ends-up into blame games thereby affecting the local population as no party takes on the blame to address the effects.

"In the end, there is human rights violation as the local population can not get what they are entitled to," he said.

He advised that governments should develop a Multilateral Sectoral Approach, saying this will bring the different stakeholders together and make each player accountable for its effects.

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