Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Janet Rogan - International Day of Forests

Mar 27, 2017

International Day of Forests, 21 March 2017

Forests and Energy

Government Complex, Lusaka

Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Janet Rogan


Honourable Jean Kapata MP, Minister of Lands, Natural Resources

Honourable Ministers and Permanent Secretaries

Senior Government Officials

Ambassadors of Norway and Finland

Other members of the diplomatic community

Civil society


Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am delighted to be here today representing the UN in Zambia for the International Day of Forests. This year's theme is most relevant to Zambia because around 70% of the population rely on forest resources for their energy needs either through fuel wood or charcoal. The other 30% of the population rely on electricity produced by hydro-electric generation, which is dependent on forests for the sustainable supply of water. So does the formal economy.


In Zambia we have been losing forest at an alarming rate. Currently, we are losing about 230,000 hectares of forests every year - that's more than the size of Mauritius or Hong Kong. This matters very much to our society and to our economy, to our immediate environment, our wildlife and biodiversity, and to our agricultural prospects. Deforestation affects our water basins and catchment areas, and our perennial streams and rivers. Topsoil becomes loosened and blows away, degrading our land and silting up our rivers.  Cut the trees, there will be a desert. It's much easier to create a desert than a forest.


According to estimates by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 17% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation and forest degradation. That's almost 20% or one-fifth. In response, globally, countries have come together to establish a mechanism to provide financial incentives to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions from forest areas. This mechanism is called REDD+ : Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.


We see that the most vulnerable in society depend on use of their natural resources for their livelihoods. So if each country is to reduce the impact on the environment caused by these unsustainable and damaging livelihood activities, we need to find ways to compensate for shifting to sustainable management of natural resources and also to encourage communities to shift to alternative, more sustainable, less damaging livelihoods.


Today we will see the launch of Zambia's REDD+ strategy - Zambia's strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. I am proud that the UN in Zambia has brought a multi-agency approach to supporting government in designing this strategy: UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are the three UN agencies that have worked together with government and other stakeholders on this. 


Zambia's REDD+ strategy is innovative in that it brings together understanding of the interdependency of development and climate change, in an attempt to prevent and reverse the destructive cycle that arises from uncontrolled or poorly controlled natural resource use: for example, poverty in communities leads to clearing forest areas for immediate cash gains through charcoal burning; but the deforested and degraded land leads in a very short time to drying up of water resources and poorer crop harvests; reinforcing long term poverty. Wildlife diversity diminishes. The approach taken in Zambia's REDD+ strategy recognises the need for a transition and it seeks to address both climate change and sustainable forest management simultaneously.

Importantly, at a time when national and global financing is very competitive, the existence of a REDD+ strategy will enable Zambia to access and use a variety of global financing and policy options to support low emission, climate-resilient development. Launching the REDD+ strategy is part of Zambia's commitment  toward the global climate change response and Zambia's Nationally Determined Contribution to the global effort which was announced in Paris at COP 21 in 2015. It will be important for this integrated, multi-sectoral cross-government approach to be fully reflected in the Seventh National Development Plan, across the whole country and right down to the community level. The UN in Zambia will continue to support this top national priority.


Let me end by coming back to the subject of our celebrations today - the forests and their trees. Trees provide the structure of our environment. They protect us and preserve the water in the earth; they provide food. They are the architecture of our fields and gardens. We should plant more trees. I take inspiration from one of our elders from the generation of freedom fighters, Mama Kankasa, with whom I was honoured to spend some time recently. There are trees bearing her name - the Mama Kankasa trees - all over Zambia. She is still fighting, to reverse desertification through deforestation and to prevent land degradation.  That is a wonderful example to emulate.


"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst," it is written in Isaiah, "I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together." The connection between deforestation, land degradation and quality of life was known thousands of years ago; and a blue print was written down for us. It remains only for us to hear and to act.


Thank you.


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