The challenges facing countries and producers of forest products vary with each situation, but there are cconstraints common to many. These include lack of: politiccal will, national dialogue, national standards, necessary skills, clear incentives, and fair competition, among others. In many West African States, illegal harvesting appears to be increasing and hampers the realization of full economic potential of the forestry sector. Export procedures sometimes provide loopholes for corruption, while certification is yet significantly appreciable in sustainable forest maanagement. Implementation of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in these countries holds potential to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, these constraints.
In the SADC region both forests and water are highly valued resources and yet there is no clear strategy on how to manage them in an integrated manner. Conceptual clarity on the effect of forest cover on water yield and water quality is evident. However, the lingering question is still whether forests are major regulators, consumers or producers of water (Dudley and Stilton, 2003; Cal der et al, 2007).
Even though mature woodlands are considered to be in a steady state with respect to carbon balance, many of these woodlands have been disturbed in the past by man. Under good management, such relatively mature woodlands have the potential to accumulate additional carbon in woody biomass and soil while maintaining existing carbon stocks, and thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and stabilization. Threats to African woodlands include (i) their conversion to cropland, arising from population growth and economic policies, (ii) urbanization, (iii) over dependence on wood-based energy sources, (iv) unsustainable harvesting of wood products, (v) fire and (vi) climate change and variability. From 1990 to 2000, it was estimated that woodland countries in sub-Saharan Africa lost nearly 5 million ha of forest cover annually; that is nearly 1.7% of the forest cover in 2000 (FAO, 2005).
Over 65% of the original wildlife habitat in Africa has been lost (Kiss, 1990) as a result of agricultural expansion, deforestation, and overgrazing, which have been fuelled by rapid human population growth and poverty. As a result, protected areas are becoming increasingly ecologically isolated while wildlife on adjacent lands is actively eliminated (Newmark and Hough, 2000). Invasive alien species pose additional dangers to biodiversity in protected areas in east and southern Africa.
The African Forest Forum (AFF) in a study on professional forestry associations in southern Africa found out that a majority of formerly active professional forestry associations have gone moribund for several reasons. However, South Africa is the exception in that it has a number of active forest related associations that are backed by a vigorous industrial base. They are well placed to influence public policies in support of the forestry sector. In addition, several countries including Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have associations of producers, traders and manufactures of forest products. Despite this, there is tremendous interest in virtually every country to strengthen, revive or establish new professional forestry associations; largely motivated by the income generation and poverty reduction 'policy push' in virtually every country; and more recently, the new opportunities in forestry to reduce CO2 emissions under REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) schemes. The AFF considers it an opportune moment to strengthen, establish or revive both professional and industry associations in a continent that is increasingly becoming aware of the potential role of forests and trees, their contribution to national incomes, livelihoods, and stability of the environment.
Public Forest Administration in Sub-Saharan AfricaOne of the case studies commissioned by the Sustainable Forest Management in Africa (SFM) project was on Public Forest Administrations and Related Institutions (PFAs).
One objective of the Sustainable Forest Management in Africa (SFM) project has been to identify urgent issues and concerns for Africa to give priority to in international forest processes (IFPs), and to promote an increased African participation in these, based on analyses of previous experiences and lessons learnt.Thus, one of the first studies to be commissioned by the project was entitled "Observations on participation by Africa in international forest processes".
About 40 million people in the world, almost half of them African pastoralists, depend almost entirely on livestock for their livelihoods. Animal husbandry on rangelands produces about 23 % of the world cattle meat, with 13 % of this production originating from Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has 40 % of the world's rangelands and shelters 55 % of the cattle in arid and semi-arid areas livestock systems.
Community-based forest management (CBFM) was initially defined as "any situation, which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity". Different countries and programmes have continued to develop and adapt this broad definition to fit their own CBFM activities, whether these are local people using woodlands and scattered trees in dry areas, via community management of planted trees on farms and commons, to the activities of forest dwelling communities, as well as whether the forests are owned by or leased to the communities.
Africa is characterised by extremely diverse ecological conditions, ranging from humid forests to deserts and from montane temperate forests to coastal mangrove swamps. The total forest, including woodlands, cover in Africa is estimated at 650 million hectares, of which 8 million hectares are plantations. An important feature is the uneven distribution of African forests between the different sub-regions and the population they support
The study on which this policy brief is based attempted to examine the wood based industry for the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, due to the lack of sufficient and reliable data on the wood processing industries in many SSA countries, the study concentrated on developments in the main tropical timber producing countries in Central and West Africa.
Until recently, formal forestry practice in many Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries has focussed almost exclusively on tree and forest resources for industry. This focus also shaped the development of forestry research to service the needs of the timber based industry. Forestry issues related to the needs of local communities that depend on these resources, environmental issues, sustainability of supplies and the wood raw material base, and the production of public goods and services now constitute the emerging priorities in the sector and in forestry research.
The inception of Forestry Education in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) in the 1920s and 1930s was largely patterned after models already in place in Europe and North America. Much training was at a technician level, and those trained were largely absorbed into the public sector to manage natural forests and plantations. Up to 1970 there were very few institutions teaching forestry in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the majority of them were still producing technicians only. Professional education was available only in South Africa, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria, making most countries depend on schools in Europe, North America and Australia for professional education. The number of forestry professionals was very small, and largely employed as administrators of the sector.
Plantation forestry has taken root in many Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries and has been a significant component in forestry programmes since the early 1900s. It is convincingly argued by many experts that the only way to avoid shortage of wood in the near future is to meet these demands from rationally managed tree plantations on much smaller areas than would be required for equivalent production from natural vegetation. Furthermore, many secondary wood industries (furniture, paper, etc.) require wood of reasonably uniform and predictable quality, a strong argument in favour of plantations. In addition, tree plantations are often the most rational way of producing also nonwood forest products, for rehabilitation of degraded areas and improvement of watersheds, and for meeting environmental objectives such as windbreaks, shelterbelts and, more recently, carbon sequestration.
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) play important roles in the daily lives and overall well being of rural and urban people in Africa. NWFPs are major sources for food, medicines, fodder, gums, fibre, and construction material. Many of them are important traded commodities at local, national, regional and international levels, providing employment and income at each level. Even with this potential, forest communities remain poor, raising concern whether NWFPs constitute a poverty trap, a safety net, or a potential but underutilised resource for rural development and poverty alleviation.