- The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (‘‘the Department’’) is responsible for the administration of the National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998) (‘‘the Act’’).
- The Act promotes sustainable management and development of forests and provides for the protection of certain forests and trees.
- The National Forests Amendment Bill, 2016 (‘‘the Bill’’), seeks to amend this Act.
- The Department is the custodian of the Act and should facilitate the amendment of this legislation in order to ensure that it remains responsive and relevant in the field of sustainable forest management.
- This legislation was promulgated in 1998 and since then, several national legislation such as the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No. 57 of 2003) and the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) were also promulgated, as well as the advance in science, technology and research in the field of sustainable forest management to ensure the co-operative governance and management of natural resources.
- The Department is responsible for the creation of a comprehensive regulatory framework through policies and legislation to improve sustainable forest management in the country.
- It is therefore of critical importance to ensure that, where necessary, amendments should be effected to ensure that there are no legislative or policy vacuums that hinder effective sustainable forest management.
- Most poor people and vulnerable groups located mainly in rural areas of the country rely on forestry for their livelihoods.
- The proposed amendments will assist in encouraging participation of vulnerable groups at the same time ensuring sustainable forest management.
The Bill seeks to amend the National Forests Act, 1998, so as to;
• provide for clear definitions of natural forests and woodlands;
• provide for public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources;
• increase the promotion and enforcement of sustainable forest management;
• increase the measures provided for in the Act to control and remedy deforestation;
• provide for appeals against decisions taken under delegated powers and duties;
• reinforce offences and penalties; and to provide for matter connected therewith.