FAO launches new forest, water programme for West Africa

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The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Monday launched a new programme aimed at enhancing the critical role of forests in improving water quality and supplies, a report said.

This was made known on the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Forests.

The programme, the UN food and security agency said in a news dispatch from Rome, is focused specifically on the close relationship between forests and water.

It said that the programme would start off by looking at ways to improve water security in eight West African countries: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone.

The agency will work with local communities to raise their awareness of the interactions between forests and water and help them to integrate forest management in their agricultural practices to improve water supplies.

FAO is using this year’s International Day of Forests (IDF) celebration to shine a spotlight on how forests can contribute to improving water availability.

“Especially in countries facing scarcities of this precious resource which is becoming increasingly important in the face of climate change.

“The challenges are many, but the goal is very clear: to ensure the sustainable management of forest and water resources on the planet,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva, in his remarks.

“Promoting forest restoration and avoiding forest loss will require a significantly increased level of funding and innovative financing, including from private funds and traditional investors, in the coming years.

“FAO is committed to providing a neutral platform for negotiations and dialogue, to encourage greater interaction among all the parties working to achieve sustainably managed forests,” he said.

The report noted that the programme started with a first focus on setting up a forest-water monitoring framework to help countries assess potential forest benefits in terms of water resources.

It will involve developing a set of standardised monitoring indicators and field methods to identify which forest management interventions result in improved water quality and enhanced supplies.

This data will be in turn used to develop better-informed practices and policies to unleash the full potential of forests in improving water supply.

The monitoring framework will be piloted in West Africa’s Fouta Djallon Highlands, with field activities having kicked off this month.

The project, funded by the Global Environmental Facility, is being jointly implemented by FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Union

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