South Sudan is well endowed with diverse natural forests and woodlands, with an estimated total area of 191,667 km2, taking up about 30% of total land area. However, forest assets of South Sudan have been seriously degraded by the prolonged conflict affecting the country. A number of case studies conclude that annual forest loss was on average 2% a year, a rate which if sustained, would lead to complete forest loss within 50 years (AWEPA, 2007). The main causes of this deforestation are: fuelwood collection, charcoal production, agriculture, livestock, and the construction industry. There is, therefore, an urgent need to introduce and implement effective forest-related programmes, policies and legislation in the country.
Almost all the forests in South Sudan are on communal land, hence the importance of community forestry, where the local communities play a significant role in forest management and land use decision making. The timber industry is an important development opportunity for the Republic of South Sudan, if its practices are environmentally sustainable. UNEP has estimated that teak plantations alone could generate up to US$100 million per year in export revenue.
The 2009 Land Act provides ample space for community control of this important natural resource, and UNEP is working closely with government, institutions, development partners, UN agencies, and the communities themselves to introduce sustainable forest management and halt rapid deforestation.
Projects on community management of natural forests were commenced in Central and Eastern Equatoria states in 2012 to empower community groups and recognize them as autonomous local entities responsible and accountable for forest management decisions including economic opportunities from forest based activities, as well as raise awareness on community forestry in the country.
UNEP’s approach has been overwhelmingly well received by counterparts, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development and other partners, with recognition that there is a clear need to support the sustainable management of natural forests.
To help South Sudan in generating the required information to sustain its forest resource base on country needs, capacities, opportunities and guidance with an aim to support livelihoods and socio-economic development, the Government of South Sudan with technical support from UNEP has initiated REDD+ Country Needs Assessment (CNA). The CNA will be completed in late 2015 and will help South Sudan to move towards REDD+ readiness and implementation.