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Forests Can Help Alleviate Povery, Says FAO - 2004-02-17

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says forests are a key ingredient in alleviating poverty. It says forestry must be fully integrated with agricultural and development policies.

Wednesday, the FAO’s African Forestry and Wildlife Commission begins a four-day meeting in Accra, Ghana to discuss these issues. Among those calling for forestry to be part of mainstream development initiatives is Dr. Hosny el-Lakany. The FAO assistant director-general is in charge of the agency’s forestry department. From Rome, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the extent of deforestation in Africa.

He says, “Deforestation in Africa as we estimated in the last ten years, say between 1990 and 2000, is very high in general in Africa and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa compared to the rest of the world.” Dr. Hosny el-Lakany says, “Globally, the world lost a net of nine-point-four million hectares of forest annually between 1990 and 2000. In Africa, the loss was about five-point-two million hectares. So, more or less more than half.”

The FAO official maintains there is a clear connection between proper forest management and alleviating poverty. He says forests play a major role in alleviating the problem relating to food security. Besides their environmental role, they have a very important social role. There are people living in the forest, they have employment in the forest, they get forest products and so on. So this is part of the income.” Then there is food produced in the forest and wildlife. Forests also important in providing water.

Dr. el-Lakany says it’s difficult to say who’s responsible for most of the deforestation. He says, “In the first place, it’s the government policies that are uncoordinated. Sometimes there is some corruption. There are some illegal activities in the forest. But on the other hand you have also the dwellers of the forest, who cut the forest for subsistence agriculture. And this sometimes we cannot prevent because people have to eat and they have to live.”

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