As a contribution to the commemoration of the UN International Year of Forests (2011), the United Nations Forum on Forests commissioned the publication of a book entitled "Forests for People" which contains submissions from key institutions and professionals that are making important contributions in the forestry sector.
The International Year of Forests provided a useful platform "to educate the global community about the great values of forests - and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them." The Bank's experience in financing sustainable forest management projects in Africa in the last thirty years was one of the articles submitted. The book was launched at the UN Headquarters in February 2012.
Forests in Africa have multi-faceted uses, incorporating economic, social and spiritual dimensions. The continent's total forest cover is estimated at 674 million hectares, accounting for 23 per cent of the land area and 17 per cent of global forest cover. These forests have immense potential to contribute to the continent's social and economic development as they provide a range of ecological, economic and social services, including the protection of water and soil resources.
In an attempt to promote inclusive growth of its Regional Member Countries (RMCs), the African Development Bank supports reforestation/afforestation; rehabilitation of degraded lands, community based management of natural forests and planted woodlots; conservation of forest resources and watershed management, especially around major river basins, as well as all other activities that mitigate the threats to the stability of the ecosystems.
These commitments are captured in the Bank's Agricultural Sector Strategy (2010-2014) which highlights the importance of forestry in its second pillar. Furthermore, climate change interventions are a key priority in the Bank's forestry portfolio through its participation in the Forest Investment Program (FIP) with the backing of the Climate Investment Funds. Ghana, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo are participating as pilot countries. As such, they are supported (to prepare and finance several interventions) by the Bank under a collaborative initiative with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation under the FIP investment phase that is focusing on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+). Thus the Bank is committed to supporting capacity building through the design of bankable projects.
Emerging positive trends have been noted in the forestry sector in Africa. This has culminated in some African countries reorganizing their forestry institutions and reforming their policies and laws to make them more responsive to current challenges. This trend is allowing local communities and the private sector to take on more significant roles and responsibilities in the management of forest resources. A greater appreciation of the global value of forests is also evident.
Against this background, the Bank is committed to working with governments and other development partners to ensure maximum benefits to Africa's people. The focus on "Forests for People" will therefore remain relevant in the decades ahead.