Past, present and future perspectives


Since the 1992 'Rio Earth Summit' (UNCED), the issues facing the world's forests, particularly tropical forests in developing countries, have received greater international recognition and been the object of increased local action, as illustrated by Box 2d.2. Policies aimed at improving forest management and harvesting sustainability include removal of subsidies for commercial logging and privatization of state-owned forests. Greater stakeholder participation in forest management is also emerging and, in some countries, partnerships are being formed between the state or private companies and local communities, including previously dispossessed user groups. Legal frameworks controlling the ownership and use of forests are being reviewed in many African countries (Alden Wily 2000, Alden Wily & Mbaya 2001).

Box 2d.2 The Global Workshop to Address the Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Costa Rica, January 1999)

The Global Workshop was convened to support ongoing work of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests and proposals for action on the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

In the African workshop it was agreed that direct causes of deforestation were logging and timber production; fuelwood consumption; forest fires; human settlements; and conversion to agricultural land. Factors hindering Sustainable Forest Management were identified as:

  • poor governance and inappropriate and conflicting policies;
  • inadequate macroeconomic policies and access to trade opportunities;
  • inadequate institutional capacity and inappropriate technology;
  • unsatisfactory tree and land tenure;
  • improper valuation of forest resources;
  • poverty;
  • rapid population growth;
  • low levels of awareness and inadequate stakeholder participation.

Overall recommendations of the workshop included the formulation of policies to address:

  1. Trade and consumption patterns
  2. Improving indigenous peoples, local communities and other stakeholder involvement (including issues of land tenure)
  3. Resolving investment and aid policies and financial flows, issues of debt servicing, incentives and subsidies, role of the private sector, governance
  4. Valuation of forest goods and services, including cultural values and ecosystem services Specific steps identified to combat deforestation in Africa include:
  • providing an enabling policy framework;
  • creating awareness;
  • ensuring stakeholder participation in forest management;
  • provision of adequate resources;
  • ensuring equitable distribution of benefits;
  • educating the public on forest values;
  • reviewing Structural Adjustment Programmes;
  • assessing forest resources;
  • reforming economic policies; and
  • encouraging good cultural practices.
Source: Verolme & Moussa 1999, IISD 1999.

The value of timber as well as non-timber forest and woodland products and the value of ecosystem services provided by forests and woodlands are also receiving greater attention, and forest management is being reformed to include these aspects. Information on forests is becoming more accurate and widely available, with the use of technologies such as remote sensing and geographic information systems being used to document and present information. The African Timber Organization (ATO) was formed in 1976 by Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, and Tanzania. Collectively, these countries have more than 80 per cent of the total African forest cover. At its first regional seminar (Libreville, Gabon in 1993), the ATO agreed to establish a regional sustainable forest management process with the ATO coordinating the programme and ensuring transparency and credibility. The ATO has developed principles, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, with assistance from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). In May 1996, a preliminary version of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management was approved and, by 2000, all but nine African countries had embarked on a programme of developing and implementing criteria and indicators, either through the ATO or alternative organizations active in other sub-regions. In Southern Africa, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have criteria and indicator programmes set up through The Dry Zone Africa Process, and also have some forest areas certified by the FSC. Most countries have some forest in protected areas, although the amount varies (FAO 2001a). Seventy-seven per cent of Niger's forests are protected, 76 per cent are protected in Rwanda. Djibouti, Egypt, and Eritrea, on the other hand, have no protected forests (FAO 2001a).

To date, sustainable forestry development in Africa has been hampered by inadequate political commitment, weak or inappropriate institutions or policies, weak and poorly funded forestry departments, poor adoption and coordination of funding mechanisms, failure of the international community to translate forest conservation concerns into financial support, and national budgetary constraints (often worsened by Structural Adjustment Programmes). There is a need to encourage local efforts to mobilize resources for forest management in order to reduce donor dependency and to provide support for post-project financing to firmly consolidate the gains made during the life of the project. The African Development Bank is now proposing a consortium approach to remove these barriers and improve funding for sustainable forestry development. The proposed consortium would provide a better channel for obtaining and allocating funding for policy development and sustainable development initiatives (Kufakwandi 2001).

The sub-regional analyses below highlight the priority issues in each area and give further details on the policy and management actions in place to improve the sustainability of use of resources from Africa's forests and woodlands.