Forest and woodland resources in Africa continue to play a major role in the livelihoods of many communities, and in development more generally. The role played by forests and woodlands as sources of energy, food products and medicinal plants, as well as for the protection of catchment and water quality, is a major contribution to many national economies. These opportunities are under threat from changes in the state and integrity of the forests.

Low investment in the forest sector, increasing population pressure, weak public sector institutions responsible for forestry resources management, deforestation and declining forest quality are jeopardizing the environmental services and community benefits. Reduced access to forest products has a number of implications, including increased shortages of woodfuel, and it impacts negatively on the nutrition status of many.

Government action will, therefore, need to address a number of key concerns, including actively engaging the private sector and civil society in forestry and woodland resources management, and reviewing the legal and institutional capacities of the public sector institutions responsible for forestry resources. Governments will also need to undertake comprehensive inventory and valuation of forests and woodlands, and to introduce mechanisms which encourage sustainable utilization of forest and woodland resources, including issuing concessions on standing volumes rather than harvested volumes.

Specifically, African governments will need to put in place strong policies and find resources to enforce them. Conservation and sustainable use and management of Africa’s forests and woodlands are necessary as the basis for the promotion, development and growth of other sectors. In this regard, it is important that African states implement various aspects of the CBD by developing and implementing national biodiversity strategic action plans, nature reserves and protected areas systems. The accomplishment of set targets on biological diversity are of particular importance to the well-being and livelihood needs of Africa’s people.