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3.9 Country paper: Mozambique


Reality and perspectives
Mozambique Country Report
Written by
Gabriel Albano
Department of Forestry,
Universidade Eduardo Mondlane
C.P. 257
Maputo, Mozambique
Tel./Fax. 258-1-496238
Email: or


Workshop on Tropical Secondary Forest Management in Africa:

Reality and perspetives
In collaboration with ICRAF and CIFOR
Nairobi, Kenya, 9-13 December 2002


In Mozambique, natural forests and other woody vegetated areas occupy about 78 percent of the total surface area. Among the various types of forests, tropical secondary forest is one of which has recently created overwhelming interest.

The concept of tropical secondary forest and its application to the Mozambican situation is not yet clear; however, it is already presumed that at least more than half of the total vegetated area is secondary forest. The extent of the ecosystem is evidence of increased conversion of closed forests into open forests due to agriculture, procurement of forest products (e.g. firewood/ charcoal) and frequent uncontrolled fires.

The potential of secondary forests in providing various timber and non-timber products and services is widely acknowledged. It is upon these resources that the majority of the people in the country depend. These products form an integral part of the livelihood strategies of local communities and therefore have social, economic and ecological values.

Given the values, there are diverse management practices to guarantee the ecosystem sustainability. The management practices vary from scientific/professional based intervention to the use of indigenous management systems. These systems are based on local knowledge consisting of taboos, rituals and beliefs presented as local norms and customary laws.

Most of the secondary forests are under the informal control of local institutions. The government of Mozambique has been encouraging the active involvement of local communities to participate in the management of the resources. It is argued here that the involvement of local communities in the management of secondary forest resources will succeed if the communities get tangible benefits and if the decision-making power over the secondary forest resources is devolved to the local communities.


There has been increased concern about the destruction of tropical forests in the last decades. Various national and international initiatives are being tried worldwide to reverse the growing trend and develop strategies for sustainable forest management. Researchers and policy makers have overlooked the potential role of tropical secondary forest for production of both timber and non-timber products. Most products and services provided from secondary forests to local communities are unaccounted for.

The demand of products from secondary forests is likely to increase with the current population growth rate. Tropical secondary forests are bound to increase as a result of deforestation of primary forest for agriculture and procurement of forest products. Due to their potential to supply a variety of products and services for rural communities, tropical secondary forests form an integral part of livelihood strategies of communities who live within and around them (cf. Clark, 1994). The communities have always strived to adapt through various livelihood strategies (Clark et al. 1996). However, there is a gap of knowledge regarding the ecosystem ecology, use and management. The knowledge is crucial for development of innovative management systems.

This paper was prepared based on literature review to contribute to the understanding of tropical secondary forests in Africa. It explores the utilization and management of tropical secondary forests in Mozambique. Special emphasis is given to ecological aspects, values, management practices, and policy and institutional aspects associated with management of secondary forests.

Mozambique in brief

Mozambique covers an area of 784 755 km² extending from Tanzania in the north (10º30'S) to South Africa in the south (26º52'S). It is also borders onto Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland in the West and the Indian Ocean in the east. The country's population is around 16 million people, the vast majority living below the poverty line. With an annual growth rate of approximately 2.4 per cent, its population is among the fastest growing populations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population is unevenly distributed, with areas along the coast, urban zones and main corridors being heavily populated. In some areas density exceeds 51.9 hab/km² (average in the country 21 hab/km²). The coastal area supports about 43 per cent of the population, in a surface area of less than 20 per cent of the country. Most of these people depend on products and services from natural ecosystems, such as forests. In 1990 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was a very low US$84 per capita, with 65 per cent contribution from agriculture (mainly subsistence agriculture), 21 per cent from services and 15 per cent from industry (World Resources Institute, 1994).

Forests contribute about 18 per cent of the GNP and provide about 80 per cent of the energy needs, saving millions of tons of fuel oil that could be imported and overall saving foreign currency, much needed for the development of the country. Human activities in the forests have been enhanced by the increased demand for agricultural land, forest products and services in parallel with population growth. Slash and burn agriculture is the most important cause for deforestation in Mozambique (Saket, 1994), practised by more than 80 per cent of the people in rural areas (INE, 1997). The crops grown include rice, maize, cassava, cotton, sorghum, cashnut, millet and potatoes. The major food crops are maize, rice and cassava.

Most of the land (82 per cent) in Mozambique is in the humid climate zone, with 180 days or more suitable for growth each year, on the basis of adequate available soil moisture (World Resources Institute, 1994). There is only 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively in the semi-arid (76-120 suitable days) and arid (<76 suitable days) climates.

Natural forests and other woody vegetation cover about 620 000 km² or 78 per cent of the country surface area (Saket, 1994). The natural vegetation of Mozambique is dominated by woodland, with 63.3 per cent moist woodland and 28.8 per cent arid woodland (Geldenhuys, 1997). Evergreen and deciduous forest, also in mosaics with grassland, covers 6.1 per cent. Moist grassland covers 0.7 per cent and wetlands 1.1 per cent. The Vegetation Map of Africa (White, 1983) shows the main vegetation units of Mozambique to be as follows, primarily based on the species composition:

About 20 million ha (25 per cent of the country surface area) natural forest and woodland of different tree densities and species composition, represents productive forest, with about 22 million m³ of commercial timber (Saket, 1994). The potential role of natural forests for social and economic development and its contribution in providing goods and services is undeniable.

Characteristics and extent of secondary forests

Tropical secondary forests are defined as "forests regenerating largely through natural processes after significant human and/or natural disturbance of the original forest vegetation at a single point in time or over an extended period, and displaying a major difference in forest structure and/or canopy species composition with respect to nearby primary forests on similar sites" (this workshop). This definition includes all types of forest that have been affected in some way or another by human or natural disturbance, ranging from previously logged, "residual forests", to successional forests that develop after complete clearance (Sips and Van der Linden, 1998). According to Sips and Van der Linden (1998) for the African situation, secondary forests should include all forests that had been disturbed. Based on these and considering the Saket (1994) definition of forest types for Mozambique, secondary forests for the present paper includes a stand of woody perennial plants occupying a localised area with more or less defined crown, reaching more than 7 m high and growing on a previously disturbed ground.

Table 1: Characterization of forest types based on Saket (1994)

Vegetation code




Medium closed lowland forest

Vegetation composed of two to three strata. The crown cover of the dominant strata ranges from 50 to 70 percent. A moderate dense shrub layer is present with a sparse ground stratum. Herbaceous strata may or may not be present.


Open lowland forests

The upper stratum crown is between 25 to 50 percent. The vegetation is composed of one to two tree strata associated with a moderate to abundant grass layer and a medium to dense shrub layer. The understorey is 5 to 7 m high. A herbaceous stratum is present.


Medium closed montane forest

Disturbed closed montane forest of stands with low tree density from 70 to 40 percent.


Open montane forest

Open montane forest composed of stands with very low tree density from 40 to 10 percent.


Short fallow agriculture

Shifting cultivation areas where the land is intensively used for cropping and fallow periods are very short. More than 33 percent of this area is under crop every year.


Long fallow agriculture

Agricultural area abandoned with long periods fallow. Less than 33 percent of this area is cultivated every year.

Thus, the following forest categories qualify to be secondary forest (sensu Saket, 1994): Medium Closed Low-land Forests (LF2), Open Low-land Forests (LF3), Medium Closed Montane Forest (MF2), Open Montane Forest (MF3), Long Fallow (A2) and Short Fallow (A3) and Mangroves (Table 1). Ecologically mangroves are considered to be closed forest. In Mozambique however, the ecosystem has been degraded due to cutting for energy and construction material, clearing for salines and salt production as well as degradation induced for ecological reasons (e.g. changes in salt-water balance (Saket, 1994).

The vegetation types LF2, LF3, MF2 and MF3 have some degree of herbaceous and/or grass stratum. The herbaceous and/or grass strata are combustible and expose the vegetation to fire disturbance. One to two fire events per year occur in miombo woodland. Fires may originate accidentally from people preparing land for agriculture, during collection of honey, hunting or making of charcoal.

Frequent incidences of fire are responsible for poor species composition and/or structure of secondary forests. The low plant regeneration level in the ecosystem as well as dominance of fire resistant species such as Pterocarpus angolensis, Pericopsis angolensis, Parinari curatellifolia and Diplorhynchus condylocarpon on the canopy cover, in LF2 and LF3 vegetation types in Central Mozambique is attributed to presence of regular and frequent fires (cf. Frost, 1996; Sitoe, 1999). However, fire can be a management tool for miombo species. For instance, the germination of Pterocarpus angolensis is enhanced by fire (Sitoe, 1999). The occurrence of regular and frequent events of fire contributes to the expansion of secondary forests.

Various studies undertaken elsewhere suggest existence of large variations on the estimates of the extent of secondary forests due to differences in the definitions (Sips and Van der Linden, 1998). FAO (1996) estimates an increase of the area covered with secondary forests (short and long fallow area) in Africa from 78.94 million hectares in 1980 to 90.19 million hectares in 1990. There are no consistent studies on the extent of secondary forests in Mozambique. However, results from a survey on the vegetation change in Matutuine District, southern Mozambique between 1990 and 1997 show a steady increase of open lowland forest by 12 percent, which may be from the degradation of closed forest types (Pereira et al., 2002). Table 2 is an approximation of what is perceived to be the extent of secondary forest categories in Mozambique. It indicates that more than half of the forested/vegetated land in Mozambique is secondary forest. However, one forest can be exposed to more than one agent of destruction. This estimate needs to be validated/confirmed through systematic research.

Table 2: Categorization of secondary forests types in Mozambique

Categories and/or types of secondary forests

Corresponding classification by Saket (1994)

Area covered (ha)

Percentage of the total forested area

Post extraction

LF2, LF3, MF2, MF3, M1, M2

17 838 800


Swidden fallow

A3, A2

19 122 000




36 960 800


Socio-economic and ecological importance of the different secondary forests types

As in other southern African countries, the majority of the rural people depend on the exploitation of land and forest resources for their livelihood. Secondary forests form an integral part of the livelihood of communities living within or adjacent to it. They provide an array of both timber and non-timber products and services including grazing and browsing for livestock, firewood, timber, and a range of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Wood products that are predominantly utilised include firewood and construction poles. The collection of NTFPs is a common activity throughout the country. Mushrooms, insects, wild fruits, honey and medicines are collected for household consumption and/or for sale to provide extra income for the household.

According to a study carried out in three districts along the Beira corridor, Central Mozambique, energy sources (firewood and charcoal), construction poles (including bamboo) and medicinal plants were the tree most important products collected from forests (Mlay et al., 2002) (Table 3). Rural communities at household level depend on firewood for domestic energy purposes. Poles and bamboo are collected for house construction - most of the local houses are made of poles, laths and mud. Traditional medicines from plants provide the only alternative for health care in most rural areas because of the low coverage of health care facilities to cure or treat most ailments (Cunningham, 1997).

Table 3: Major products collected from secondary forests in three districts, central Mozambique (Mlay et al., 2002).


% of sampled households involved (n=124)< /STRONG>

Average distance from homestead (km) (± S.E.)



0,50 (0,44)



2,59 (1,88)

Poles for construction and bamboo


0,75 (0,21)

Medicinal plants


0,56 (0,09)

Wild fruits


0,63 (0,65)

Thatching grass


2,21 (1,11)

The average distance travelled from homestead to the collection sites shows the level of scarcity of the products. Apart from charcoal, all other products are collected close to the homesteads. The fact that charcoal production requires trees with a relatively bigger diameter could explain the distance travelled from homesteads to production areas.

In addition, several studies in Mozambique have indicated the commercial value of many secondary forest tree species. Significant income is generated from game and gathering of weaving materials, construction materials, wild foodstuffs, firewood, charcoal etc.

Secondary forests can accumulate more above ground carbon than plantations. This demonstrates the ecological value and importance of the successional processes of secondary forests to counter-act the greenhouse effect (e.g. Sips and Van der Linden, 1997; Campbell, 1996). No documented information on this issue is available for Mozambique.

Actual knowledge and experience on the management of secondary forests in the country

The social, economic and political change in Mozambique has had an impact on the involvement of local people in secondary forest management. Before the colonial period access to land and other forestry resources was entirely regulated by local norms and customs. After independence the role of local authority in managing land and forest resources has reduced considerably. This was followed by a high rate of deforestation and land degradation on open access regimes (Mlay et al., 2002).

The study carried out in the Beira Corridor, shows that despite local people recognising the existence of community forest management systems regulated by customary laws and norms, their involvement in the management of these lands can be very low especially if they do not derive benefits from it. In the absence of tangible benefits for local communities, it is difficult to guarantee sustainable utilization of secondary forest resources. It is in recognition of this fact that the government of Mozambique has supported the implementation of community forestry projects. Matakala and Mushove (2001) provide details for 42 community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) projects throughout the country, the majority of which (if not all) are externally driven initiatives. The aim of the projects is to get local communities actively involved in the management of the resources around them. The projects use both wildlife and trees as a resource base. The "Tchuma-Tchato" project in Tete province is inspired on the Community Area Management Project for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) experience from neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Experiences where local people are involved in the exploitation of timber are just emerging. The sound ones are the externally funded projects and implemented by DNFFB (National Directorate for Forestry and Wildlife-[Direccao Nacional de Florestas e Fauna Bravia]) in Matutuine and Goba (Maputo province), Mecuburi and Senhote (Nampula province). Others comprise those facilitated by locally operating Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Effective local community engagement in the conservation of natural resources has so far taken form in areas where benefit sharing has happened (e.g. Tchuma-Tchato, Tete province).

Current management practices of secondary forests in the country

Forest management refers to the set of technical and social arrangements involved in the protection and maintenance of forest resources for specific purposes, and the harvesting and distribution of forest products (Wiersum, 1997). This definition illustrates that forest management should not be restricted to silvicultural practices undertaken by professionals based on scientific knowledge, but all conscious human activities directed at maintaining its production capacity. The management of forests in Mozambique can be categorized into: concessions, simple licenses, customary laws, and protected areas.


A concession is a delimited area under public domain, which is attributed to an individual or group of people through a concession contract aiming at resource exploitation for industry according to an approved management plan (DNFFB, 1999). The concessions are allocated to concessionaires willing to establish an industrial unit in the field for processing more than 500 m³ of timber per year, on a long run. The maximum allowed period is 50 years, renewable, which calls for a long-term management. To date, there are 46 concessions approved or under request covering a total area of about 1,900,000 ha including primary and secondary forests (Table 4).

Table 4: Concessions under consideration and authorized by 2001(Sitoe et al., 2002).


Concessions under consideration

Authorized concessions


Area (ha)


Area (ha)





Cabo Delgado



























The concession system in Mozambique is recent. There is still lack of experience on most of the procedures involved in the process such as land delimitation, resource inventory, preparation of management plans, handling of the concession process, policing and monitoring (Sitoe et al., 2002). The legal framework, which regulates the Forestry and Wildlife procedures, has just been approved. Both forestry personnel at the Provincial Services for Forestry and Wildlife (SPFFB) as well as timber concessionaires are involved in an ongoing process of learning and training. Despite the optimism of the concessionaires regarding the benefits of the management system, they lack both technical and financial resources to undertake inventories and management plans. Given the uncertainties among concessionaires and lack of experience of the implementing authority the expected number (46), for the starting phase, seems to be too large.

Simple licences

According to the Forestry and Wildlife Act nº 10/97 national citizens and local communities are allowed to exploit forestry resources in limited quantity and period for their own consumption or income generation. The simple licences are issued by the SPFFB upon payment of a stumpage fee. Due to their proximity to local communities, secondary forests are the obviously targeted ecosystem by the simple licenses. The licences specify the period, volume and species to be exploited and do not require installation of an industrial plant for processing the products.

The fact that a simple licence is a short-term contract and does not envisage specific management practices, the benefiting individuals hold no compromise for integral management of the forest (Sitoe et al., 2002). According to the authors it makes the timber exploitation through simple licences more profitable than the concession system, and increases the vulnerability of forests to deforestation.

Indigenous management practices

The forest should not only be seen from the perspective of providing timber for industry. It also provides a wide range of products and services to rural communities. Despite all these, the interest in understanding how local people control such utilization and/or manipulate resources to optimise the benefits is recent in Mozambique. The studies undertaken (e.g. Mangue, 1999, Albano, 2001) reveal that management of forests comprise of both silvicultural practices and institutions associated with preservation and maintenance of forests/trees.

The silvicultural practices include ecological manipulation of the forests or trees in order to optimise their products. The practices such as pollarding, pruning and lopping are common in miombo woodlands in Mozambique (Albano, 2001). For example, local people pruned the branches of quality trees of Dalbergia melanoxylon during slash and burn agriculture. These practices increase the quality and vigour of the species and lopped trees regenerate faster and increase the productivity rate (Chidumayo and Frost, 1996).

Purposeful regeneration consists of practices such as tree planting, nurturing of natural vegetation and coppicing. The coppicing of trees is commonly seen on fallow lands. Most of the miombo trees can be propagated by coppicing (Chidumayo and Frost, 1996). Although the contribution of the coppice to the tree growth rate is still not known, it is believed that trimming coppice shoots to one or two after sprouting would enhance growth of the remaining shoots (Campbell, 1996). Dalbergia melanoxylon is known to have coppicing ability. Eighty percent of the regeneration in northern Mozambique was due to coppicing from the roots or stumps (Hofstad, 1997).

Taboos, rituals and beliefs make up key institutions regulating the resource use in rural communities in Mozambique. Taboos are warnings against omens with agent of punishment not clearly defined, and in case of transgression, bad omens fall in the family as guardians of the common values (Rita-Ferreira, 1975). Taboos control the harvesting of certain plants or parts there of. Throughout the country, it is believed that the use of fruit trees in general for fuelwood brings bad luck to the family. Various authors report on taboos to restrict use of fruit bearing species for fuelwood, such as Garcinia livingstonei, Tabernaemontana elegans and Vangueria infausta (e.g. Mangue, 1999; Bandeira et al., 1999). Mangue (1999) questions if the use of taboos evolved in order to protect the species because of their role as pioneer species in secondary forest succession, or simply because of their value as fruit bearers.

Rituals and beliefs regulate the conservation of sacred trees and forests. Sclerocarya birrea (canhe, canye) and Adansonia digitata (n'lapa) are some species believed to link the living and their ancestors in southern and northern Mozambique, respectively:

In spite of the questions regarding their use, taboos, beliefs and rituals have had a significant contribution to the maintenance of fruit bearing trees in areas of less agricultural potential and conservation of biodiversity on selected locations in the country. The sacred forests of Licuati and Chirindzene are some of such sites where taboos, beliefs and rituals have helped to maintain the ecosystem pristine. These sites were used as graveyards for the ancestors. Nowadays, they are believed to link the spirits of the ancestors to the living ones. They are used for traditional ceremonies and therefore should not be destroyed.

Some of these practices are disappearing due to influence of western culture. According to Mangue (1999), people converted to Christianity tend to change or curtail the traditional roles relating to certain practices. The practices are only maintained in socially stable communities (Mpinga, 1994).

Protected areas

The management of protected areas lies with the Ministry of Tourism (MITUR).

Institutional and political issues governing the management of secondary forests

According to the Mozambican constitution all the land and resources therein are owned by the State, which can grant title for occupancy, management and use, to individuals or judicial entities. The management of wildlife and forestry resources is under the Directorate of Forestry and Wildlife (DNFFB) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADER). The mandate of DNFFB includes protection, development and promotion of sustainable use of forestry and wildlife resources. The Provincial Services for Forestry and Wildlife (SPFFB) and District Services for Forestry and Wildlife (SDFFB) (where they exist) undertake the duties of DNFFB at the provincial and district levels, respectively.

The Presidential Decree of 5 January 2001 transferred the management of protected areas from DNFFB to the recently created Ministry of Tourism (MITUR). The responsibility of DNFFB is now restricted to forestry and wildlife resources outside protected areas. In general, the legal framework regarding forestry and wildlife resources in Mozambique acknowledge the right of use and management of these resources by local communities.

In rural areas, local communities live with a complex system of tenure and access. Within the community level the pattern of forestry and other land use is established on a clan system. In most of the locations throughout the country the rights of occupancy are vested in the local chief or régulo. The régulo is the custodian of the people's cultural heritage (Junod, 1974). This system of resource holding was more respected in the past. After independence and with the introduction of centralised government there has been dilution of power of local authorities. The process started with inclusion of people (mostly based on their political affiliation) in the administration of rural (and urban) areas regardless of their actual knowledge of the local social issues and exacerbated by the civil unrest that disrupted the social and economic conditions of the country from 1976-1992. The chiefs that should control the observance of local institutions for the management and maintenance of forests saw their legitimacy weakened. The new administration system was followed by new institutional arrangements. The diversity of institutional arrangements imposed on local communities raised questions of which institutions are legitimate. According to Serra (2001) there is a direct relationship between clarity on legitimacy of institutional arrangements and the conservation of natural resources. The lack of power from local chiefs rendered inobservance of local norms and customs regarding natural resources management. Devolution of power to local and legitimate institutions is needed to encourage observance of local norms and involvement of rural communities in the management of forests.

Main lessons and conclusions

There is no consistent definition of secondary forest in Mozambique. However, based on the assumptions in this paper, more than a half of the forested area in the country qualify to be secondary forest. The ecological characteristics of this ecosystem are still to be investigated.

Due to difficulties in definition of secondary forests, the exact area covered by the ecosystem is still to be determined. It is commonly acknowledged that there is an apparent increase in the conversion of closed lowland forests to open lowland forest. This increase is due to deforestation of closed forest for agriculture, procurement of forest products (e.g. firewood/charcoal) and frequent uncontrolled fires.

Local communities in rural areas of Mozambique depend on forest (primary and secondary) resources for survival. They derive from these forests a diverse set of both timber and non-timber products. These products contribute substantially to their economic and social welfare.

Recognition of the potential value of forest resources to livelihood strategies of rural communities as well as the country's economy has enhanced the existence of management practices at both Government and local levels. The Government is nowadays encouraging the active involvement of local people in the management of forest resources as a means to guarantee sustainable resource conservation. The involvement of local communities in the management of the resources is dependent on the existence of tangible benefits.

Most of the forests are under informal control of local communities. Therefore, empowerment of local authorities to manage natural resources is urgently needed. The local authorities use local norms and customary laws to regulate the management of the resources.


It is evident that a clear definition of secondary forests is required for the African and country context. A clear definition of the concept and its applicability to the Mozambican situation can be reached after a thorough research on different aspects of secondary and primary forests in the country. A research program that ensures understanding of the different components of secondary forests needs to be undertaken. Appropriate inventories in an area of primary forest, degraded forest, and regrowing or rehabilitating (= secondary) forest, and data analyses may help to indicate the differences and similarities between the primary and secondary forests, and the respective management requirements.

From the definition, delimitation of secondary forests in Mozambique is required. Further identification of categories of secondary forests should also be considered. Identification of the factors associated with the origin of those forests needs to be undertaken.

Products primarily based on secondary forest species, which are used by local people, need to be identified as well as the conservation status of those species. The economic, social and ecological contribution of the ecosystem needs to be determined comprehensively. This will help policy makers to shape adequate policies for the management of secondary forests.

Empowerment of the local communities to manage their resources needs to be encouraged for a better management of secondary forests. Based on the local management practices, an innovative management that integrates the modern management systems need to be developed.


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