Improving operating standards in sustainable forest management of tropical forests in Africa

Paxie lN. Chirwa, University of Pretoria, South Africa; OghenekevweArabomen,

Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Nigeria; Stephen Syampungani,

Copperbelt University, Zambia; and Vincent 0. Oeba, African Forest Forum, Kenya

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Deforestation in Africa
  • 3 The need for sustainable forest management in Africa
  • 4 Improving operating standards in sustainable forest management
  • 5 Conclusion
  • 6 Where to look for further information
  • 7 References


Tropical forests play a vital role in delivering multiple benefits such as environmental, economic and social values. From time immemorial, people have lived in proximity to the forests and relied on forest products as a complementary measure for survival and livelihoods (Chao, 2015). For instance, the tropical forests in African regions provide land for farming, firewood, charcoal and other trade goods (Chirwa et al., 2017), particularly for the rural economy. They also provide consumptive products, such as honey, wild fruits/ foods, edible insects, game meat and herbs for both rural and urban dwellers (Adam et al., 2013).

Tropical forests provide wildlife habitats and have traditional, recreational and spiritual values that are important to various forest users (UNEP-WCMC, 2016a). They are also important in reducing rainfall runoff and the risks and disasters from flooding and erosion (FAO, 2016). They help in the regulation of the water cycle thus boosting soil and underground water quality. This is critical in supporting the development and viability of other sectors, such as agriculture, hydro-power generations and potable water supply for domestic and other uses (FAO, 2016). Other studies (Angelsen et al., 2015; Aung et al., © Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited. 2021. All rights reserved.

2015; Bwalya, 2013) highlight the significant contributions of forests in offering employment, contributing to household income thus alleviating poverty. Additionally, tropical forests and trees provide aesthetic appeal in cityscapes that are highly valued for tourism and urban uses (Arabomen et al., 2019), and contribute to the amelioration of climate in built environments (FAO, 2016).

High exploitation and land degradation rates occur in African tropical forests due to mismanagement and increasing pressure for land owing to widespread poverty and limited livelihood opportunities (Chao, 2015; Chirwa et al., 2015a,b; Maisharou et al., 2015). The leading drivers identified include population growth and demography, agricultural expansion and energy needs (Chirwa et al., 2015a,b). However, the rate of forest loss continues at an alarming rate, especially within the past decade (FAO, 2016). For instance, the world's forests, which were 4 128 billion ha in 1990 had reduced by 3% in 2015 (Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2015). High rates of deforestation in African tropical forests occur in Uganda (4%) and Comoros (2%) in Eastern Africa; Zimbabwe (2%) in Southern Africa; and in Chad, Mauritania, Benin, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Togo in Central and West Africa ranging from 1.5% to 5% (Chirwa and Adeyemi, 2018). For example, in Malawi, about 60% of the forestland is under agricultural use. Agricultural intensification and continuous farming on increasingly marginal lands without the use of long-term sustainable strategies have resulted in continually declining forests. Furthermore, due to limited land resources, there is little opportunity for fallow and rotation to restore already degraded forestlands in Malawi, as in many parts of Eastern and Southern Africa (Guiying et al., 2017; Chirwa et al., 2008). There is also growing evidence that degraded lands and forest resources are important factors related to poverty and poor health of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa (Jayne et al., 2014).

In other countries like South Africa, the growth and sustainability of the forestry sector is faced with many challenges including the issue of land restitution and forest tenure, which is a dominant social challenge (Tshidzumba et al., 2018). Indeed, land and forest tenure and rights of access to forest resources are either poorly defined or are not available to many people in various parts of Africa (Chirwa et al„ 2015a; FAO, 2008). The strategic issues of concern in the forestry sector are on how to conserve the forest resource while providing for the livelihoods of the rural communities. For example, for commercial forests in South Africa, ensuring sustainability and financial viability of forestry enterprises on afforested lands transferred to claimant communities is key (Forestry South Africa, 2015). Hence the growing interest of all stakeholders, both government and non-governmental agencies, in assessing the performance of forestland businesses that have been transferred back to claimant communities (Deininger and May, 2000). A few others have linked the poor performance of these forestland businesses to a lack of decisive post-settlement support from government (Hall, 2011) and unequal bargaining power among land-claimant beneficiaries and private partners (Cundill et al.,

2013). Similarly, other studies have reported the challenge of limited and/ or unclear benefit-sharing mechanisms in the management of transferred forestland businesses (Romano and Reeb, 2008; Davis and Lahiff, 2011). This is also true in many other community-based forest management projects in Africa (see Tshidzumba et al., 2018; Senaganimalunje et al., 2016; Phiri et al., 2012).

Forest-related policies and legislation in many African countries are either poorly designed or are outdated. Where policies are available, implementation is often also weakly enforced or lacking. Furthermore, regulatory agencies either lack expertise and/or resources as well as political influence, and are often powerless where corruption thrives due to the high potential of shortterm gains for those engaged. The result is that despite their best endeavours, enforcement is ineffective (Josephat, 2018). For instance, in Uganda, the National Forestry Policy, National Forestry and Tree Planting Act were put in place to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the country's forest resources. However, there is still rampant deforestation (Josephat, 2018). Hence, the need for the review of forestry and environmental policies in Africa should involve all stakeholders so that implementation is simplified thereby enabling up-scaling of sustainable management of forests with opportunity for development of the forestry sector. In tandem with this, deep-rooted institutional irregularities such as corruption need to be addressed to achieve any success.

Following the 2012 Rio+20 Summit there was an increasing interest in sustainable forest management (SFM) - 'a process of managing forests to protect and enhance their potential to provide relevant economic, social and environmental functions of all types of forests, now and in the future' - in which sustainable utilization and conservation of forest resources played a key role in biodiversity conservation, climate change processes and in providing necessary ecosystem services. In the case of Africa, most rural and urban communities are inextricably linked to the forest resource for the daily livelihoods. Thus, following the debate about forest sustainability issues at the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris, the forestry sector could have opportunities for SFM through participatory forest management (PFM) in African countries. For instance, at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, it was suggested that more attention should be given to local stakeholders by recommending 'a more bottom-up approach' (FAO, 2016; UN-REDD Program, 2015a). Local stakeholders, particularly forest-dwelling communities and those depending on forest resources for their livelihoods could thus be better incorporated into local forest management structures. This could enhance better understanding on the ways local people traditionally use forest resources, the existing management approaches, local access issues, land tenure and tribal or local authority systems (UN-REDD Program, 2015a). These have led to more acknowledgement of the fact that success in halting deforestation may depend on the extent to which programmes incorporate the understanding of the system and practices of PFM into forest management.

Land reform in Africa, as in many other developing countries noted for colonialism and adoption of the natural resource policies thereof, has resulted in conflicts as people have been denied access to forests, and this is presently an issue of serious contestation (Tshidzumba et al., 2018). This concern has drawn attention to the concept of PFM to present opportunities for stakeholders and communities, while also contributing to sustainable management of forest resources. It is imperative to stress that both forest managers and government must embrace this method to resolve rampant land grabs and people's displacement as well as ensuring the empowerment of the communities. Furthermore, the significance of PFM to resolve current and future challenges in a more coordinated approach have been emphasized (Tshidzumba et al., 2018). Conversely, to sustain forest productivity, indicators that make provisions for SFM and equitable sharing of benefits have been developed by different multinational processes in the past years. In addition, the indicators have currently been included as part of the regulating and reporting framework for the global sustainable development goals (FAO, 2016). Most importantly, the policy and legal framework (FAO, 2016; see Fig. 1) has been developed to support SFM with a platform to involve stakeholder's PFM in the policy dialogue. They provide important policies and regulatory issues relevant to the African forestry sector highlighting the important roles of forests in national economic and livelihood development, reducing hunger and enhancing environmental protection and other forest ecosystem services (FAO, 2016).

Policy and regulatory framework of sustainable forest management (FAO, 2016)

Figure 1 Policy and regulatory framework of sustainable forest management (FAO, 2016).

Notably, about 167 countries have a policy and a plan that cover well over 50% of their forest area, representing about 4 billion ha of global forest area (FAO, 2016). It is worth highlighting that the extent of forest area covered by a protection plan will continue to rise, in view of current trends and increasing attention to SFM. For instance, during the African Union meeting held on June 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the decision Assembly/AU/Dec.538 (XXIII)' directed the African Union Commission (AUC) to put in place a Sustainable Management Program Framework in Africa (SMFPA) in partnership with African ministers in charge of the forestry and energy sectors. This SMFPA is expected to aid African Union member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to sustainably manage and develop their forest sectors for socio-economic development and environmental protection. This process is expected to be concluded by 2020 with focus on developing a framework that covers the value of forests, markets, processing and trade; capacity development and knowledge management; policies and institutional frameworks; restoration of degraded forests and landscapes and building important partnerships for effective implementation of the programme. This continental intervention implies that there exist gaps on SFM in Africa, which demands for having in place appropriate methods aimed at improving operating standards in different forest types and addressing challenges of increasing the forest area under a well-designed management plan.

This chapter, therefore, discusses and/or highlights some of the concepts of SFM as a means of presenting opportunities to stakeholders and communities, and at the same time contributing to sustainability of forest resources. It specifically provides good understanding on the extent of deforestation in Africa; basis of SFM; concept of SFM; and standards towards SFM in tropical forests that entailed criteria and indicators, forest certification, logging concessions and biodiversity conservation and payment of ecosystem services (ES). Furthermore, opportunities for using SFM are presented with a case study on the PFM approach that can achieve social needs of the communities and ecological balance of the forest resource.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >