Improved regional collaboration and harmonization of approaches

Africa recognizes the immense value of its forests and has mainstreamed forests in its development agenda, the NEPAD. The NEPAD Environment Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP) locates forests and woodlands in Programme Area 6: Transboundary conservation or management of natural resources, which emphasizes the protection and sustainable management of Africa’s forest resources through:

Box 4: Kenya’s Green Belt Movement
Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 2004.
Source: Associated Press

Kenya’s GBM has focused on environmental conservation and community empowerment for at least thirty years. The movement’s sustained efforts in these areas have been rewarded by the awarding of the Nobel Prize to its founder, Professor Wangari Maathai, in 2004. Its major achievements include the creation of over 600 community networks across Kenya that care for 6 000 tree nurseries. Over the years, these networks, along with individuals, have participated in planting more than 30 million trees on private and public land, protected reserves, sites with cultural significance, and in urban centres. This has resulted in the transformation of many landscapes (forests, steep slopes and other degraded areas) and in the increased protection and restoration of habitats for local biodiversity.

Additionally, Kenyans’ attitudes toward the environment have also been transformed: awareness of the impacts of ecological decline has increased, along with public interest in defending the environment, including forests and public parks and open spaces. Tree planting also provides an entry point for the GBM’s other initiatives, including civic and environmental education, capacitybuilding and advocacy. During the review process for Kenya’s new constitution, GBM held civic and environmental education seminars and conducted treeplanting activities to support the process and encourage a peaceful transition. Over 250 000 peace trees were planted.

Source: GBM 2006

  • Strengthening national plans and programmes for forest management, inventory and monitoring. This includes improving the participation of stakeholders, such as communities and the private sector, in new approaches and initiatives as well as the promotion of the wide range of roles played by forests. Also included here are measures to improve and integrate mapping and knowledge (scientific as well as traditional knowledge) and to strengthen monitoring and assessment.
  • Maintaining protected areas by, among other measures, improving capacities, forming collaborative management partnerships with other countries, and restoring ecosystems; and
  • Strengthening forest law and governance, by encouraging the sharing of information on trade in illegally harvested forest products, improving participation in international fora and international agreements, and more effective implementation of measures to reduce corruption.

The NEPAD-EAP recognizes that forests and woodlands are an important crosscutting issue critical to the success of the other NEPAD programmes, including combating land degradation and climate change, and conserving wetlands, and coastal and freshwater resources. Special attention, therefore, needs to be given to enhancing the quality of forest resources at the sub-regional and national levels and to maximizing the benefits that can be derived from forests and woodlands.

In the recent past, most countries have developed policies that can support and influence sustainable use of forest and woodland resources, including national environment action plans and national sustainable development strategies. These policies aim at sound sustainable development by reconciling economic development and conservation of resources, and they provide a good basis for the proper management of natural resources. Their effective implementation is among the best opportunities African countries have to conserve their woodland resources and maximize benefits for their citizens.

Other measures to reduce the loss of forests include integrated land-use planning; conservation and sustainable use of natural and planted forests; community involvement in all aspects of forest management; developing markets for a wider range of forest goods-and-services, including carbon sequestration and watershed protection services; and independent third-party certification of products from sustainably managed forests. Chapter 12: Environment for Peace and Regional Cooperation considers how improved cooperation in forest management has improved opportunities for conserving forest resources and enhancing peace.

Forestation and reforestation

Some countries have adopted aggressive programmes of forestation and reforestation, with demonstrated results in the short run. As a result of these efforts, the annual planting rate in Africa overall is estimated at 194 000 ha or about 4.4 per cent of the global planting rate (FAO 2003a).

In the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) island states, for example, vegetation cover is changing considerably through the development of agroforestry plantations. The Seychelles has extensive coconut plantations as well as a relatively large planted estate of Casuarina and Albizia species (UNEP 2005a). Both Cape Verde (9.3 per cent) and Gambia (1.0 per cent) show increases in forest cover (FAO 2005). Similarly, there is a positive trend in Northern Africa, with Egypt experiencing a growth of 3.3 per cent, Libya 1.4 per cent and Tunisia 0.2 per cent (FAO 2005).

As natural forest areas shrink, the concern to conserve the remaining areas for environmental services has resulted in many countries setting them aside as protected areas, thus making them largely unavailable for commercial exploitation. This has led to a push to expand the plantation areas, especially in South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Swaziland has experienced a growth of 1.2 per cent. There is also increased private planting in Eastern and Western Africa. Some countries, like Uganda, are actively seeking the involvement of the private sector in plantation development, including establishing a loan scheme by the National Forestry Authority for tree farmers and offering leases on its own reserve land to encourage private plantations development. Nevertheless, Uganda’s forest cover continues to decline at a rate of 2 per cent per year.

Community empowerment

Improving the opportunities available to local users will have benefits at the local level, with potentially positive spin-offs at the national, sub-regional and regional level. The importance of community and public involvement in the management of forests has been recognized and promoted across Africa, with many countries adopting new laws and policies to support this (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere 2005). There is increased community involvement in several sectors including forest management, ecotourism, advocacy, public education, and forestation and reforestation. Governments are also increasingly recognizing the value local users bring to resource management as their primary custodians.

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in Kenya, have played an important role in promoting such approaches, as shown in Box 4.

Human resource capacity

Human resources development, particularly in terms of professional training, has not been sufficient to meet the needs associated with sustainable management and enhancing development opportunities.

Investment in forest-related education is an important challenge. From 1993 to 2002, the number of forestry bachelor degrees awarded has been increasing steadily, but the number of post-graduate degrees has declined significantly (FAO, RIFFEAC and UICN 2003). Certificate-level forestry training has practically disappeared. International partnerships can play a key role in addressing this problem. One option is to increase the opportunity for African students to study in developed countries.


While forests are valued for their timber, fruits and medicinal values, the opportunity presented by agroforestry to communities in the region is not well known. Agroforestry technologies that can be readily adopted include planting of nitrogen-fixing trees, the domestication of indigenous fruit trees, medicinal trees, live fences, and woodlots for timber and fuelwood. Regional cooperation, including through sharing experiences and lessons on effective resource management, may improve opportunities. The strengthening of the East African Community, for instance, is a good opportunity for improved cooperation between Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Economic and development opportunities

The extent and quality of forests and woodland varies from one sub-region to the other as does their socioeconomic significance. The sub-regional analysis discusses the various issues related to sustainable management of the forests and woodlands at this level and the various strategies being put in place to optimize benefits and ensure sustainability. A multilevel strategy for harnessing opportunities, which brings in multiple actors and focuses on improving opportunities for local users, increasing investment in value-adding activities, and utilizing the opportunities for environmental service markets, is essential (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere 2005).

There are several possible levels of economic activities involving local communities, including in small-scale income-generating, cooperative projects, and large-scale partnership projects with the private sector. Effective local level management of natural resources requires that local people have clear, unambiguous proprietary rights to the resources they manage (UNEP 2005a). For communities to take advantage of emerging opportunities, a policy and legislative framework is required that protects the communities’ rights to forest resources, promotes access to markets, ensures proximity to markets, improves local expertise, gives access to information, improves institutional capacity to manage resources, adds value to products and services, increases the negotiation capacity of local people, and promotes partnership (FAO 2005).

The proportion of logs domestically processed in Africa increased slightly from 80 per cent in 2003 to 82 per cent in 2004. This reflects increasing populations, growing economies and the emphasis on producing and exporting value-added products in this region (ITTO 2004). South Africa accounts for about 42 per cent of Africa’s share of value-added wood industries. Other African countries’ share in processing is considerably lower. According to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005, the wood industry’s gross added value stems from wood processing rather than wood availability (FAO 2006). Ultimately, it is the improvement of and access to technology that will enhance the value-adding, manufacturing and marketing performance of the wood industry. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in its Johannesburg Plan of Implementation prioritized investment in industry as critical to meeting sustainable development goals.

If the existence of large forest areas is neither an essential nor a sufficient condition for the promotion of dynamic forest industries in Africa, it most certainly is for the expansion of schemes such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that focus on the carbon sequestration value of forests. This market has been evolving quickly (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002), but Africa has not seized the opportunities available through it (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere). Forestation and reforestation schemes can be an important component of carbon trade as envisaged under the Kyoto Protocol. In order to maximize the benefits from CDM-related activities, African nations must ensure that more land is available for forestation and reforestation, and that forest conservation and sustainable management activities are pursued. Increasing the availability of forests for carbon sequestration also implies that more carbon market traders will come into play, boost competition, thus motivating countries to sustain management and conservation activities.