Africa News -- Ethiopian environmentalist Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Monday called on farmers worldwide to emulate forest dwellers and manage agricultural ecosystems organically.
Cautioning that farming communities faced the risk of disappearance leaving deserts behind if they increased their reliance on industrially manufactured chemical fertilizers, he said that resorting to chemicals provided a short-term solution to degraded soils.
Tewolde, Director of Ethiopia's environment protection agency and a laureate of The Right Livelihood Award, spoke at the opening of a three-day International Conference on Participatory Forest Management, Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihoods in Africa.
"Forest dwellers have lived for over 100,000 years interacting with forest ecosystem without needing to resort to industrially produced chemicals to maintain soil fertility in their ecosystems.
"Farmers that manage both farms and forests have managed to live on their farms for thousands of years. But those who could not do it have disappeared with their abused farms," he noted.
The conference, organised by Ethiopia's Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry in collaboration with some NGOs, has brought together experts and practitioners to discuss recent findings on a range of issues associated with the establishment of "participatory forest management (PFM)" as a forest management system by local communities in Africa.
Experts agree that PFM plays a significant role towards the realisation of the Convention on Biodiversity, but the conference organisers said the link between PFM and biodiversity conservation in Africa had not been fully explored.
There is also an emerging issue that the costs of biodiversity conservation could be shared between community groups and wider stakeholders at local, national and international levels.
According to Tewolde, the process of continuing to exhaust the deteriorating ecosystem by resorting to the use of chemicals exacerbated the process of desertification.
"Agriculture is becoming increasingly less organic. Farmers are resorting to chemicals to enable the degrading soil to produce crops, until it totally fails to produce crops," he said, noting: "Forests are also shrinking because of climate change. But the present day climate change is human induced."
"Agriculture, even when organic, changes climate if it devastates forests and thus change the dynamics and humidity of the atmosphere," added Tewolde, a renowned biodiversity and bio-safety negotiator and recipient of several international awards.
Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis told the meeting that unless serious actions were taken to stop environmental degradation the world might be unable to support the population.
"International collective action is needed not only at rural community level but at the international community level to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment. "There will not be sustainable development without sustainable management of the natural resources," he said.
Girma advocated sound management and use of natural resources to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.
He also emphasized community involvement in the management of natural resources noting that rural communities in Africa were intrinsically based on natural resources.
Ethiopian 'Green Chemical' Plant Could Weed Out Polluting Glue
Potent Plant Example of Why Free Science Access Will Aid African Researchers