The endowment value of forests and woodlands in Africa is enormous, and can be used to promote a wide range of livelihood opportunities, including increased income and enhanced livelihood security. However, as forests and woodlands are declining, primarily as a result of increased woodfuel collection, clearing of forests for agriculture, illegal and poorly regulated timber extraction, conflicts, increasing urbanization and industrialization (FAO 2002), these opportunities are diminishing. Between 1990 and 2000, Africa’s forests and woodlands receded faster than the global average; deforestation in Africa took place at an average of 0.8 per cent, as compared to the world average of 0.2 per cent (FAO 2005).

Policy, legal, institutional, technical and economic constraints have undermined wider adoption of sustainable forest management as well as limited opportunities for development.

One major constraint is that Africa has not been able to take advantage of its wealth of raw materials and traditional knowledge to invest in processing (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere 2005). This continues to undermine opportunities for employment and income generation (FAO 2003a). With increasing private sector involvement, including foreign-based companies, there is a good opportunity for governments to foster viable partnerships with the communities and civil societies in the protection of traditional rights of forest-adjacent communities, and equitable sharing of benefits from forest resources to promote livelihood security and ensure sustainable use of forest and woodland resources. This is consistent with obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Additionally, it is essential for there to be increased investment in the development of micro- and SMEs if people are to have the opportunity to move away from subsistence-based livelihoods (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere 2005).