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Southern Africa leaders take action to prevent forest degradation

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The Miombo woodland covers an area of about 2.7 million km2 across Tanzania and the DRC in the north, Angola and Zambia in the east, and Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in the south. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica.

Southern Africa leaders take action to prevent forest degradation

Last week, Southern Africa leaders signed the Maputo Declaration for the protection and conservation of the Miombo woodland biome.

Compiled by Leon Louw, owner and editor of WhyAfrica

The Maputo Declaration is an instrument that will promote joint and integrated actions for the recovery and management of the most extensive warm dry forest type in southern Africa.

The Miombo woodland covers an area of about 2.7 million km2 across seven countries: Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the north, Angola and Zambia in the east, and Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in the south.

According to the book Biodiversity in ecosystems edited by Yueh-Hsin Lo, Juan A. Blanco and Shovonlal Roy, the Miombo woodlands are important to the national economies of these Southern African countries as they provide timber for exportation, while they also host an array of wildlife and game species important for the tourism and conservation sectors in Southern Africa.

Illegal action leads to degradation     

The growing population in the region over the last 20-25 years has resulted in increased woodland degradation and uncontrolled illegal deforestation.

“Slash and burn agriculture and charcoal production are the major causes of forest loss and degradation in the Miombo Ecoregion. Additionally, the region is experiencing several major investments in mining, commercial agriculture, and infrastructures, which have further increased the pressure on the woodlands.

“In Zambia, where there is large-scale mining for copper, huge tracts of land are cleared to provide space for mining infrastructures. In Solwezi, for example, infrastructure development resulted in the loss of more than 7000 hectares of land. This is often followed by an increased demand for construction timber, creating further pressure on forests,” writes Yueh-Hsin Lo, Juan A. Blanco and Shovonlal Roy.

The onset of Covid-19 has resulted in an increase of illegal logging operations, and I came across several during the WhyAfrica’s recent Southern Africa Road Trip through Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

Timber stockpiles left by illegal Chinese operators in forest areas of Southern Africa. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Action to promote Miombo conservation       

According to Filipe Nyusi, president of Mozambique, the Maputo declaration promotes joint, coordinated, and integrated actions for the recovery, management, monitoring and conservation of miombo forests and other forest formations throughout the Southern African Development Community [SADC] region.

The Mozambican head of state was speaking in Maputo during the regional conference on the management of miombo biome forest ecosystems, which was attended by his Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and other members of regional governments.

The aim of the meeting focused on conserving biodiversity and mitigating the impact of climate change on miombo forest ecosystems, by increasing the capacity to manage natural resources and introduce innovative methods among the countries of the region.

According to Nyusi, forest conservation is of “collective interest, for the good of the people and the planet,” considering that “climate change does not respect borders,” and for that reason, it is important to regulate the exploitation of resources.

“If we want to transform our relationship with nature, we have to do it together,” he said, noting that the signing of the Maputo Declaration was a historic milestone in consolidating regional commitments for the conservation of the miombo and greater Zambezi forests. Miombo forest covers about 82% of Mozambique’s total land area.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Miombo is the Swahili word for Brachystegia, a genus of trees comprising a large number of species. Miombo Woodland is classified in the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands biome.

According to Yueh-Hsin Lo, Juan A. Blanco and Shovonlal Roy, changes in the global climatic pattern, for example a 5-15% predicted reduction in precipitation for southern Africa, constitute another major threat across the various global ecosystems.

“In the Miombo Woodlands, these changes are mainly associated with more extreme wet and dry seasons, drier interior regions, wetter coastal regions, as well as extreme temperatures, which may change disturbances regimes (fire, shifting cultivation, amongst others) and thus the prevailing biodiversity status. The combined effect of climate change and disturbances may cause the loss of close to 40% of the woodlands by the middle of the century.

It is widely recognised that Miombo Woodlands have great potential to provide financial resources through Carbon-based Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), but their function as dynamic C-pools in biogeochemical cycles is largely unknown.

“In this context, understanding biodiversity and carbon variations under different land use scenarios as well as the rates and the extent to which Miombo recover from disturbances has important implications in the emerging C-based PES schemes, which are taking center-stage in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through mechanisms such as Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). On the other hand, such assessments will be crucial for future land use decisions to ensure optimal land use benefits, hence ensuring forest conservation and sustainable management.”(Yueh-Hsin Lo, Juan A. Blanco and Shovonlal Roy).

Southern Africa leaders take action to prevent forest degradation

Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.        

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. WhyAfrica specialises in African affairs and natural resources. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message. WhyAfrica launched its first ever digital magazine in November 2021. The company will undertake a road trip through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the DRC, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya in 2023. If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities, please contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za. We have a wide range of different packages and combo deals to give your company the greatest exposure to a rapidly growing, African readership.  

The 2022 Southern Africa Road trip issue of WhyAfrica’s magazine is now available in print. The magazine was distributed in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana during WhyAfrica’s Southern Africa Overland Road Trip, the company’s new and innovative platform. WhyAfrica has expanded its product range and now offers its readers, followers, advertisers, subscribers and partners the following:

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Southern Africa leaders take action to prevent forest degradation      

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