The International Day of Forests on Saturday 21st March sees the launch of the African Community Forestry Network (ACFN). For the first time, a grassroots network is being created which brings together community-led organisations working in agroforestry and forestry across Africa.
Millions of people in Africa rely on trees and forests for their shelter, jobs, food and security. This network will ensure that their viewpoint is heard in the debate about the future of African agriculture, forestry, environment and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Over 70 organisations from 14 different countries have been invited to join and it is expected that the network will continue to grow over the coming year. The ACFN is initially being coordinated by International Tree Foundation (ITF) which has been working with community organisations in Africa for 90 years, originally being founded in Kenya in the early 1920’s.
ITF Director Andy Egan explains why ITF became involved,
“At present there is no structure in place for African community-based and non-governmental organisations working in community–led forestry and agroforestry to either share and learn from each other and to advocate for improved policy and practice at both governmental and international levels.
This new network will promote the importance of a bottom-up approach based on the practical lived experiences of rural African communities who appreciate the ecological, economic and social interconnectedness of trees and forests.”
One of the founding organisations of ACFN is the Save Mount Kenya Forest from Extinction Group who have been working with ITF on community forestry projects in Kenya since 2011. Their Programme Director, Paulino Mugendi said,
“We welcome the setting up of the AFCN. There has been considerable growth in the number of community-based organisations who are taking the lead in practical reforestation and agroforestry initiatives. Many of these are facing similar challenges and finding similar solutions. Much more can be achieved if they are given the opportunity and resources to document their solutions which can be shared with others.”
Further details on International Day of Forests can be found on the UN website http://www.un.org/en/events/forestsday/