From 7 to 11 September 2015, 3,000 people attended the 14th World Forestry Congress organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). GRET, which has been working in the area of forestry since 1988, was present at the Congress. Entitled “Forests and people: investing in a sustainable future”, this edition saw the event being held for the first time ever on the African continent, in Durban, South Africa. Judicaël Fétiveau, natural resources management expert with GRET, tells In Touch about the event.
In Touch – What were the challenges for this congress?
Judicaël Fétiveau – This event dedicated to forests and forestry is organised by the FAO every six years. This year, two months before Cop 21, national delegations were invited to take forests into account in their future commitments to fighting against climate change. The subject of this edition was also in line with recent events, just ahead of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations General Assembly. The congress opened with the FAO’s publication of its latest report on Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), which indicates a global stemming of deforestation, based on national data using a very broad definition of forests. This observation is not shared by Global Forest Watch, based on processing of data derived from satellite images and a more restrictive definition of forests, which highlights the lack of reliability of national data on which the FAO bases its findings, at a time when tools for forest monitoring are being used increasingly in tropical countries.
In Touch – What innovative approaches were discussed at the congress?
Judicaël Fétiveau – The official programme and side events focused largely on the intersectoral dimension of forests, particularly with the launch of an international dialogue on forests and water. More generally, the position of the forestry sector in regional development plans was discussed, in particular as part of the landscape approach, which aims to organise the multifunctionality of spaces to the benefit of a plurality of interests. This intersectoral dimension was also present at the third Forum of the Standing Committee on Finance of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), organised during the conference and demonstrating that funding for forests also comes from the sectors of agriculture, energy, etc. Bolivia’s proposition to connect mitigation and adaptation beyond carbon, via the REDD+ mechanism (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), was also discussed. After the finalisation of the Redd+ methodological framework (the “Warsaw Framework”, adopted in December 2013) during the intersessional periods of Cop 21 in Bonn in June 2015, there were calls for action in developing countries (DCs). The expectations of DCs are now focused on funding for structural reforms that are crucial to effectively fight against deforestation and for the payment of deliverables ahead of definition of the position of Redd+ in the agreement and post-2020 climate arrangement, especially the possibility of selling REDD+ credits on regional or national carbon markets.
In Touch – What solution has been implemented by GRET in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight against deforestation and the degradation of forests?
Judicaël Fétiveau – As part of the Defiv-Dafoma project, GRET is promoting farming practices that respect the environment and sustainable management of forest resources on a pilot scale in Mayanda, in the Congo Basin. Simple Management Plans (SMPs) for resources on the scale of customary lands are a tool to make these practices part of a regional development approach. After a detailed land survey, five SMPs recognised by local authorities were drawn up by the local communities with support from GRET, comprising a five year investment plan for their investments. This solution combines three benefits. Firstly it impacts positively on food safety by improving agricultural yield from farm lands. Development regulations also make it possible to increase the income of local populations and reduce regional isolation without contributing to deforestation, while the development of agro-forestry systems demonstrates the possibility of restoring the degraded land instead of burning natural woodlands. These agro-forestry techniques diversify crops, reduce the vulnerability of rural families to the vagaries of the climate and minimize their dependency on carbon inputs. This solution is replicable in all rural areas with access to resources managed by customary powers that are not subject to violent disputes.