THE illegal logging and poaching of valuable animals should no longer be allowed to continue and must be brought to a halt as a matter of urgency.
This was the call made by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry during the opening of the 19th Session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) in Windhoek on Monday. The theme for the session is 'Development of the Forest and Wildlife Sectors for effective contribution to Food Security and a Green Economy in Africa'.
Minister John Mutorwa said the time is ripe to increase all that is needed to stop the killing of the rhinos and elephants, particularly in the Southern and eastern sub-regions of the continent.
In his address, Mutorwa also said both the wildlife and the forestry sector still face major challenges, including poaching and illegal bush/game meat trade as well as the human-wildlife conflicts affecting farmers and lack of recognition for the sector. He further said that due to climatic change conditions, Namibia has a limited amount of forest resources, particularly those that are normally used as commercial timber.
"We as policymakers expect the AFWC to debate both forestry and wildlife issues and challenges in a balanced manner, to ensure that both sectors contribute significantly to food security, poverty alleviation, climate change effects mitigation and overall socio-economic development at local, national and regional level," said Mutorwa.
Mutorwa said despite Namibia being blessed with dry forests and woodlands that play a pivotal, life-supporting role in the lives of many Namibians, these resources are being eroded by the mounting momentum of deforestation, which will be further compounded by the impact of climate change.
The minister said the government and stakeholders have embarked on various mechanisms to improve forest resources management including bush encroachment, deforestation, and uncontrolled fires.
The Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Specie of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John Scalon, said that Africa has experienced a serious peak of the killing of elephants in recent years.
"In 2011, more than 25 000 elephants were killed for their ivory across the continent, driving the extinction of the African elephant," Scalon said. "This is robbing the local people of resources as the elephant population continues to decline. Wildlife tourism generates employment to the local people and adds to the economy, and we need to regulate the way we use our wildlife."
Scalon said the state and its people are best placed to protect their own wildlife and that the involvement of local people is vital for conservation success.
Assistant Director-General at the Forestry Department of FAO, Eduardo Rojas-Briales said that Africa's wildlife sector is an important contributor to the development of the continent's green economy, and judicious management of these resources, including protection, legal hunting and appropriate curling, should be encouraged.
"Forest and wildlife make significant direct and indirect contributions to addressing challenges throughout Africa. From tourism revenues in the wildlife sector in eastern and southern Africa to direct provision of foods, particularly in central west Africa, forest and protected areas in Africa are at the centre of the fight against hunger and poverty and the promotion of a green economy," he said.
The African Forestry Wildlife Commission (AFWC) is one of six Regional Forestry Commissions established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to provide a policy and technical forum for countries to discuss and address forest issues on a regional basis. It meets every two years. FAO encourages wide participation of government officials from forestry and other sectors as well as representatives of international, regional and sub-regional organizations that deal with forest-related issues in the region, including NGOs, and the private sector.