Under Article 111-2(c) of the Treaty, the Community sets to ensure sustainable utilization of natural resources like forests and other terrestrial ecosystems. The East African region has a wide variety of forests that support a wealth of biological diversity.
The major forest types include:
- tropical and sub-tropical forests,
- forests plantations,
- Miombo woodlands,
- Acacia woodlands and
The forests are vital to people’s livelihoods and regional socio economic development through provision of goods and services.
Apart from providing fuel wood for energy, timber and poles for construction, medicine and food, they also protect soil from erosion, harbour valuable biodiversity and are water catchment areas and offer recreational opportunities.
Forest management challenges:
Despite their importance, forests are facing numerous challenges that threaten and undermine their potential contribution in conservation, poverty alleviation and economic development.
While climate change threatens to change the types and conditions of forests, unsustainable exploitation through logging, unsustainable tree cutting, forests conversion, and infrastructure development degrade and fragment the forests in the region.
At present, exploitation far exceeds conservation, which has led to drastic loss of forest cover.
Challenges such as inadequate collaboration in forest management among the Partner States, inadequate capacity in planning and program implementation at national levels, and conflicting forest policies can be resolved by developing a robust and comprehensive regional forest policy to support regional forests conservation and complement national forest initiatives.
The EAC Climate Change Policy also identifies the Forest Management Sector as one of the critical sectors for climate change adaptation and mitigation since forests are considered carbon sinks.
Regional Forestry Policy:
The EAC Partner States have recognized the importance of forests and the need for a regional forest policy to among other things maximize the contribution of the forest sector in improving people’s livelihoods and nature conservation.
This is supported by Chapter 19, Article 111 of the EAC Treaty where the Partner States agree to take concerted measures to foster co-operation in the joint and efficient management and the sustainable utilization of natural resources within the Community for the mutual benefit of the Partner States.
Article 114, section 2(a)(i) with regard to the conservation and management of forests calls for Partner States to take necessary measures through:
- the adoption of common policies for, and the exchange of information on the development, conservation and management of natural forests, commercial plantations and natural reserves; the joint promotion of common forestry practices within the Community;
- the joint utilisation of forestry training and research facilities;
- the adoption of common regulations for the conservation and management of all catchment forests within the Community;
- the establishment of uniform regulations for the utilisation of forestry resources in order to reduce the depletion of natural forests and avoid desertification within the Community; and
- the establishment of Api-Agro Forestry Systems.
The specific objectives of the forest policy will among other things involve:
- Protecting and enhancing the quality of EAC regional forest resources for the benefits of its citizens and future generations including productive capacity, health and vitality;
- Ensuring that extraction of forest products in the region is sustainable and done in accordance with laws and regulations governing forest management;
- Maintaining or enhancing the ecosystem services provided by forests; and
- Supporting EAC’s partner states in managing forest resources to produce the range and mix of goods and services demanded at local, national, regional and global levels.