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Press Release 00/09

FAO Regional Conference for Africa:

Rome, 23 February - Africa's forests are seriously threatened by civil unrest, rapid conversion into agricultural land, overgrazing, wildfires, overlogging and excess cutting for fuelwood and charcoal production, according to a report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The study will be discussed by the 21st FAO Regional Conference for Africa, meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon, 21-25 February.

Deforestation is a serious threat for most African countries. Between 1990 and 1995, Africa lost 3.7 million hectares of forests every year, a deforestation rate of 0.7 percent, more than twice the world average of 0.3 percent.

"It is estimated that Africa lost 10.5 percent (approximately 60 million ha) of its forests between 1980 and 1995," the report said.

Forests cover 520 million hectares in Africa, the continent contains the world's second largest reservoir of tropical forests, after Latin America.

Sub-Saharan Africans are relying more than ever on fuelwood to meet their domestic energy needs, particularly for food preparation and preservation. It is estimated that 70-90 percent of total energy consumption is coming from wood, and this dependence on the forests is likely to increase because of low incomes and poverty. Of the almost 570 million cubic metres of roundwood produced in 1994, 84 percent was used for fuelwood. With a growing population, this trend will continue, the report said.

Currently, several countries on the continent are involved in military conflicts. The forests of these countries remain unsafe to manage. The growing number of displaced persons ravage forest resources beyond national boundaries. In addition, many forests have been land-mined, preventing sustainable forest management.

Furthermore, the development of national forest programmes has been hampered by political turmoil, lack of international support, weak political commitment and the poor integration of forestry policies into the agricultural sector.

The report noted that "forest products certification and eco-labelling have the potential to contribute to the promotion of sustainable forest management. However, few African countries have been involved with the development and adoption of certification schemes. The challenge to African countries is to take proactive steps to influence the process and, where appropriate, develop their own certification guidelines."

FAO called for a better management of plantations, increased attention to social aspects and involvement of local communities and a greater reliance on indigenous species. Forest plantations are an important element in the sustainable development of forests and can be complementary to natural forests, FAO said. Compared to other parts of the world, plantations in Africa are small and in many cases suffer from poor survival and lack of management.

Many African countries have initiated policy reforms. In Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, national forestry programs have been successful, but other countries have been hampered by lack of political and institutional instability, inadequate technical expertise and lack of financial resources. FAO called upon African governments to fully involve NGOs and the private sector in developing and applying National Forest Programmes.


The report "The Challenges of Sustainable Forestry Development in Africa" is available on Internet at: (FAO Regional Conferences 2000); for further information please contact Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Office, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org or Paul Fouda Onambele, Regional Information Officer, e-mail:, tel: (00237)2116849 (Direct)/ 211242; fax (00237) 204811.

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