Deforestation is “faster in Africa”

Africa’s forests are disappearing faster than those in other parts of the world because of a lack of community land ownership, the BBC reported, citing a study by the Rights and Resources Initiative. In comparing land distribution in 39 tropical countries – totaling 96% of global tropical forests – the authors found that African citizens have the least control over the forests they inhabit.

Less than 2% of Africa’s forests are under community control, compared to a third in Latin America and Asia, according to the organisation. Meanwhile, the deforestation rate in Africa is four times the world’s average. At the current rate, the study said, it will take Congo Basin countries 260 years to reach the level of reform achieved in the Amazon.

Action on land tenure could help to halt deforestation, slow climate change and alleviate poverty, says the report, entitled Tropical Forest Tenure Assessment: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities. It was presented at a meeting in Cameroon of forest community representatives from Africa, Latin America and Asia who are seeking to re-ignite initiatives to establish forest-tenure rights in west and central Africa.

Several countries have introduced or amended laws to strengthen community land rights, but need to “quickly scale up” the process, the report says. The countries include Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Sudan and Tanzania.

Failure to ensure land rights for indigenous peoples, particularly women, will impede efforts to stop deforestation and mitigate climate change, say the authors. Clearing of land for agriculture, logging and other extractive industries accounts for as much as one third of some countries’ total carbon emissions.

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