Past, present and future perspectives

Towards sustainable management and conservation of forests and woodlands in Central Africa

The importance of forests and forest resources in Central Africa has led stakeholders, especially governments, the international community and NGOs, to intensify measures for forest resource conservation and sustainable management. Countries in the sub-region have engaged in re-forestation programmes in places where deforestation has occurred, and in forest regeneration and rehabilitation where there has been degradation. Unfortunately, data are not available to show the extent of such actions. Further measures include the protection of forests through the establishment of protected areas, the extent of which varies from a total of 27 per cent of forest and woodland area in Chad to 9 per cent in DRC (FAO 2001a). Regional cooperation in protection of forests has also been strengthened in recent years through the Yaounde Forest Summit and Yaounde Declaration (Box 2d.7).

Box 2d.7 International cooperation in Central Africa

The Yaoundé Forest Summit, held in Cameroon in March 1999, was a major event in cooperation between Central African countries towards tropical forest conservation. The Summit produced the Yaoundé Declaration, signed by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. The Declaration is a 12-point plan of action for sustaining Central African forests, through commitments such as the creation and extension of protected forest areas, and plans to combat illegal logging and poaching. In December 2000, the heads of state of these nations met again, and plans were put in place to establish a transborder park, between Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Congo. The Sangha park, as it will be called, is the fusion of existing protected areas in the three countries, and the production forests and hunting zones that surround them, totalling one million hectares. This is the first park of its kind in Central Africa, and will help to effect harmonisation of national forest policies, policing, research, and monitoring.

Source:WWF 2000

With the exception of Chad, all of the countries of Central Africa are members of the ATO and have developed criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management under its auspices. Chad has developed criteria and indicators through the Dry Zone Africa process. Other sub-regional initiatives include the Central African Regional Environmental Programme (CARPE), a long-term initiative on the part of the USAID which aims to address the issues of deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Congo Basin forest zone. CARPE works with all governments in the sub-region, as well as American private voluntary organizations and appropriate federal agencies. Its 5-year pilot programme has been designed to gather and disseminate baseline information on forest resources, and to characterize and prioritize the threats to forests and opportunities for their sustainable management. It also aims to strengthen the capacity of decision makers in sustainable forest management.

Ecosystèmes Forestiers d'Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC) is another sub-regional programme that seeks to reconcile development and conservation of the natural environment by working closely with local communities and stakeholders. So far significant work has been channelled into developing botanical inventories and documenting information on forest dynamics (productivity, mortality, regeneration, and phenology). These data provide a baseline for understanding of how the ecosystem functions and for implementation of sustainable resource development. ECOFAC has also worked extensively with indigenous groups and studied their interactions with the environment, as well as pressures on the forest resources exerted by various groups and activities.

Many countries in the region have revised their forest policies, and/ or developed National Environmental Action Plans or Biodiversity Conservation Strategies. However, their success is dependent on the commitment of political will, financial resources, trained staff, and equipment to enforce the new regulations and protection measures. Effects of these responses include an increase in the availability of information on sustainable forest management, raised awareness of forest issues, limited reforestation efforts, and the extension of protected areas.