Africa Loses 3.4 Million Hectares to Deforestation

Abuja — The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has expressed concern that indigenous forests in Africa are being cut down at an ‘alarming’ rate of about 3.4 million hectares per year, making the continent the region with the second highest net annual loss of forests in 2000-2010.

Scientists have also lend their voice to this worry by observing that preserving Africa’s surviving tropical forests and planting new trees to replace those lost to deforestation could help to reduce the severity of climate change by absorbing more carbon from the air, and ease the local impact of climate change by regulating local weather conditions.

They also cite the forests’ roles as watersheds, defences against soil erosion and conservation pools for biodiversity.

Reforestation and education on the benefits of forest conservation are critical to stemming and reclaiming Africa’s lost forest and biodiversity, said Dr. John Peacock, who is manager of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – Leventis Foundation Project, during the 2010 Open Day held recently in Ibadan.

The 2010 Open Day was marked with the planting of indigenous trees by IITA staff in Ibadan to help mitigate the effects of climate change and losses in biodiversity.

The planting of trees comes at a time when deforestation rate in Nigeria has reached an alarming rate of 3.5 per cent per year, translating to a loss of 350,000-400,000 hectares of forest per year.

Peacock pointed out that planting of trees is part of a new initiative to restore rainforests in Nigeria, adding that IITA is also contributing to the important UN-REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiative in Nigeria.

He stated that through the IITA-Leventis Project, the team have raised over 15,000 seedlings of 33 different species since February 2010 in preparation for planting next year, hoping to increase it during the coming dry season when most tree species produce seeds.

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