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Deputy Minister Sotyu’s speech at the 22nd African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) and the sixth African Wildlife Week

Mpumalanga, Skukuza, 09 March 2020

Minister of Forestry from the Kingdom of Lesotho Honourable, Tefo Fabian Mapesela
Vice Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Democratic Republic of Congo Honourable, Dr Jeanne Ilunga Zaina
Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Honourable Fikile Xasa
MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs of Mpumalanga Province,  Honourable Vusi Shongwe
MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism of Mpumalanga Province, Honourable Pat Ngomane
The FAO Country Representative: Dr Francensco Pierri
Mayor of Bushbuckridge Local Municipality: Councillor Sylvia Nxumalo
Representative of the National Forestry Advisory Committee, Mr Goodman Xaba
Representative of the Forest Sector Transformation Charter Council
Traditional leaders and Councillors present today
Distinguished guests and dignitaries,

Ladies and gentlemen

A very warm welcome to you all!

It is an honour for me to address you on the opening of the Twenty Second Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) and the Sixth African Forestry and Wildlife Week (AFWW) here in Skukuza, Kruger National Park.

It may be recalled that South Africa hosted the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban from 7-11 September 2015, which was the first to be held on African soil. It is an honour to welcome African delegates to South Africa once again.

Programme Director,

Africa has more than 20 percent of its territory covered by forests of different types. The continent's economic growth has outpaced the global rates with a number of countries among the fastest growing economies in the world. Projections indicate that the African urban population will grow from 500 million to 1 billion in 2040. However, the economic performance is uneven across the region as well as within individual countries, and sustainable development is still far below the internationally agreed targets. Africa has a challenge but also an opportunity to establish a sustainable path to development, building low-carbon rural and urban landscapes with a reduced material footprint. Forests, their products and value chains are a vital element if such trajectory to sustainable development is to be pursued.

The aspiration of Agenda 2063 is that, by 2063, Africa will be a prosperous continent with the means to drive its own development through the sustainable, long-term stewardship of its resources. This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. As we embark on this collective journey, it will be advantageous for people of the region if no one is left behind.

 Forests and trees outside forests are vital for sustainable development. Forests occupy one-third of the Earth’s land area, and about another half of the total remaining land area features sparsely scattered trees. These renewable natural resources are crucial for tackling many of the issues identified in The Future We Want, such as poverty, food security, climate change, biodiversity, sustainable production and consumption, and social inclusion, particularly meeting the basic needs of vulnerable people and ensuring their well-being.

Programme Director,

Globally, 1.6 billion people (nearly 25% of the world’s population) rely on forests for their livelihoods, many of whom are the world’s poorest according to the IUCN. Forests provide US$ 75–100 billion per year in goods and services such as clean water and healthy soils. Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. There is now greater evidence on how forests are critical to livelihoods of the world’s poorest, with a better understanding of the trade-offs and more exact confirmation that healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable development.

The potential of forests is perhaps no better illustrated than in the fact that wood grows back. Around one-third of the world’s population, or about 2.4 billion people, make use of wood to provide basic energy services such as cooking, boiling water and heating. Overall, forests supply about 40 percent of global renewable energy in the form of woodfuel – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined.

As highlighted by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, forests and trees play a crucial role in reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Acting as carbon sinks, they absorb the equivalent of roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. However, deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels and accounts for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector. Effective forest management can strengthen resilience and adaptive capacities to climate-related natural disasters, underscoring the importance of integrating forest-based measures into national disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the roles of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (also known as REDD+) will be vital for global efforts to combat climate change. The disasters that are brought about by climate change manifest themselves in various forms. However, in forestry this has been experienced through uncontrolled veld and forest fires that destroy life and valuable property.

As we are aware, Africa’s wealth in biodiversity and wildlife are world-renowned. These are key assets for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and can be sustainably and equitably used to reduce inequality and poverty on the continent.

Programme Director, in June 2019, the inaugural Africa Wildlife Economy Summit was held to forge a new deal for tourism, rural communities and wildlife by 2030. This summit underscored the need to manage habitats and wildlife as critical resources that contribute to the economic and social health of communities, nations and the planet. The loss of habitats, wildlife and biodiversity in general, has devastating effects in human welfare and economies especially in our region. Our role as a continent is invaluable in defining the new deal for nature and people through the ongoing processes of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Africa is united in pursuing a deal that balances conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing.

In order to address threats to the continent’s wildlife, the African Union has adopted the African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa. This Strategy is regarded as the blueprint and common guideline for Africa’s response to illegal exploitation and illicit trade in wildlife, which aims to reduce and eventually eliminate illegal trade in wild fauna and flora through a coordinated response. It is imperative that our countries play their part in supporting the full implementation of this Strategy. We are humbled as South Africa, to have been assigned the roles of both chairpersonship of the African Union for 2020 and that of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). We therefore stand ready to work with all countries in this beautiful continent of ours in pursuing the agenda that promotes the sustenance of lives and wildlife.

This year marks the 61st Anniversary of the AFWC. Established in 1959, the AFWC is one of six Regional Forestry Commissions established by Food and Agriculture Organisations of the United Nations (FAO) to provide a policy and technical forum for countries to discuss and address forest and wildlife issues on a regional basis. The other commissions cover the regions of Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North America.

Programme Director, the 22nd session is convened under the theme “Forests and Wildlife: Africa’s Diversity for shared prosperity and security”. The theme highlights the richness and diversity of Africa’s resources and to fully capture their importance and key role in sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people, creating job opportunities for youth and women, contributing to water-energy-food security and nutrition, building a foundation for resilience, nations’ economies and prosperity.

The Sixth African Forestry and Wildlife Week is held simultaneously with the Commission Session to showcase progress, and advancement in African forestry and wildlife sectors. It will further enable networking, collaboration and exchange of experience and knowledge among policy makers, technicians, practitioners, academia, civil society and development partners from different countries from local to regional levels. The Week will include several exhibitions, multi-sectoral dialogues and side events.

The outcomes of this session will feed into the programme and preparations for the upcoming 25th session of Committee on Forestry and the XV World Forestry Congress to be held in June 2020 in Rome, Italy and in May 2021 in Seoul, Republic of South Korea, respectively. It is therefore important for Africa to participate fully whilst appreciating the unique biodiversity of our Continent. Today’s attendance demonstrates that together we can play part in protecting our resources for socio-economic and environmental sustainability.

This gathering comes in the midst of the celebrations for International women’s day. I would like to acknowledge the role of women in all spheres of life including the role they play in leadership and development of the country. We acknowledge the presence of women and the role they play in rural areas by empowering other women in rural development. Their presence here today is acknowledged and highly appreciated.

The hosting of the Twenty Second Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) would not be a success without our partners and sponsors. We would like to thank our partners and role players who through their efforts made the hosting of the session a success. We welcome our International delegates to our beautiful country, South Africa and hope you will enjoy your stay and feel at home.

We wish all participants and delegates fruitful discussions throughout the week and outcomes that will solve our continent s challenges with regard to forestry and wildlife. Lastly, we urge everyone to realise that Governments cannot do it alone and we need support of all. Working together, we can do more.

I thank you


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