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Abodunrin Charles Omoluabi

Forestry Officer (Economic Analysis)

Forestry Planning and Statistics Branch (FONS)

Forestry Policy and Planning Division,

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the

United Nations - Rome


While Forestry Statistics is important in the planning of sustainable management of forest resources, its general situation in terms of collection, compilation processing and dissemination in Africa remains unsatisfactory. The poor situation of Forestry Statistics has been identified years ago as the principal factor limiting the quality of National Tropical Forestry Action Plans.

At the 1995 session of the Forestry and Wildlife Commission for Africa (AFWC) which took place on the 27th of November 1995 in South Africa, the deplorable situation of Forestry Statistics in Africa was re-echoed and proposals were made to FAO to work towards strengthening African countries in forestry data collection and analysis.

In response to this problem, the preparation of a methodological guideline for the use of African countries for the collection, processing and dissemination of forestry statistics, including resource base information was proposed as one of the activities needed for the development of Forestry Statistics in Africa.

This conclusion led to the reporting officer's recruitment as a consultant on the subject by the FAO Regional Office for Africa, Accra in September - October 1997 when he was under the employment of the Forestry Management, Evaluation and Coordinating Unit (FORMECU), Nigeria. The opportunity for the consultant to present this report at the FAO workshop in Zimbabwe 1998 was created by the re-engagement of the reporting officer (consultant) on a short-term appointment after an earlier service to FAO in the Sudan.

The objective of the presentation of the report on " Methodological Guidelines for the Improvement of Forestry Statistics in Africa" during the workshop was to generate discussions that could lead to the improvement of the report and strategies for Forestry Statistics Development in Africa. It was also aimed at exposing the workshop participants who are also a core group in African Forestry Statistics Development to the observations and recommendations of the report for their reaction. The need to present the is also justifiable by the fact that the consultant concluded that the report could not be described as a final document as the expert suggested that sub-regional or country guidelines should be the ideal target.

The terms of reference according to the consultant were specific:

· Analyse in general the situation of Forestry Statistics in Africa using existing documents and by studying the situation in Ghana and Togo.

· Analyse the legal and institutional organisation of the countries as well as the capacity of their national technical services to collect and manage reliable forestry data.

· Assess the needs in terms of personnel and logistics for adequate and effective management of data essential to the development of the forestry sector in Africa.

· Propose the structure and content of a methodological guideline for the improvement of collection, processing and management of Forestry data (including the resource base).

· Prepare methodological guideline for the use of African Countries, with the view to improving collection, processing and the management of statistics on forest resources and products.

Organization of the Report

The study report was presented in nine chapters. The study background, objective and terms of reference were highlighted in Chapter one. Chapter two presented the status of Forestry statistics in Africa with particular references to the situations in Ghana, Togo and Nigeria.

Highlights of the major groups of databases including major variables that are needed for the improvement of Forestry Statistics in Africa were carefully identified in Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Chapter 9 provided some useful field guides to facilitate data collection for the establishment and update of the identified databases. Useful past experiences of the specialist in data formats design and in the implementation of surveys were provided in this Chapter.

Finally, proposals for development of Forestry Statistics in Africa were made in Chapter 10 as recommendations of this report.

Scope of the Study

Based on the observations in the countries studied during the assignment, major constraints to the development of forestry statistics in Africa were identified by the consultant. Proposals were made to address these problems and enhance the status of Forestry Statistics in the region

According to the consultant, the major databases including their contents that are required for forestry planning, policy formulation policy analysis and development programmes monitoring for the sustainable management of forests were also identified in this report. The uses to which the identified databases can be put in forestry planning, policy fine-tuning and forest management decision taking processes were fully noted.

The consultant made no attempt in the report to exhaust the list of data required. He noted that the sustainable management of the complex forest ecosystem of Africa and its innumerable resources requires expertise from many disciplines including ecology, silviculture, biometrics, rural sociology, economics, remote sensing, cartography, soil science and engineering. The consultant observed that the growing expertise in these fields in Africa would naturally expand forestry database in Africa in the future.

No attempt was also made to provide field formats for data collection. The design of formats according to the specialist should be the responsibility of individual countries. He observed that data acquisition, processing and storage is expensive and that data interests and emphasis of each country will depend on country potentials. This fact, country socio-political structure, forestry organisation and data collection cost considerations will determine data scope, format structure and final guidelines for data collection. Finally, the following observations and recommendations were made for development of forestry statistics in Africa.

Findings of the Consultant

The consultant observed that available data for sustainable forest management in Africa are currently inadequate and unreliable due to:

· The methodology of collection and estimation;

· Poor responses from the field (particularly from industries);

· The limited scope of data collection programme (wood-based industries data, products consumption data and NTFPs data usually neglected);

· Data loss due to institutional arrangements and occasional instability arising from survival and competition problems and office relocations;

· Manpower quality and staff retention problems;

· Available infrastructure for processing, storage and retrieval (computers);

· Untimely update of databases;

· The lack of data development programmes;

· Absence of compelling legal instruments; and

· Inadequate funding.

The specialist affirmed that it was clear during the study period that all the countries were in problems with data coordination. For example, he noted that the Forestry Commission of Ghana which assumes the responsibility of forestry statistics coordination in the country was lacking in manpower and infrastructure. Like Ghana, the planning cell of the Federal Department of Forestry responsible for data coordination in Nigeria was equally lacking in manpower and infrastructure.

However, the expert commended the efforts of some field Departments of Ghana, in particular, the Forestry Management Capacity Building Unit based in Kumasi. The Cross River State of Nigeria has equally made some commendable progress in forestry data acquisition and database development.

These success cases which the consultant found in bilateral project units demonstrate the importance of finance in Forestry Statistics Development and the potentials of international support for forestry development in Africa.

Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report

The poor status of forestry statistics in Africa can be associated with institutional weaknesses in general. The indices of forestry sector weaknesses in Africa include the poor structural organisation of forestry units in many countries; inadequate expertise and manpower; poor funding of programmes; and weak support for enacted laws and enunciated policies.

The Forestry Sector in most African countries require internal re-organisation to acquire the needed capacity to collect adequate and reliable data. While there are no strong barriers to the effective functioning of forestry in this domain, the structural organisation of institutions of the forestry sector in most African countries hinder data flow. Roles and responsibilities with particular reference to forestry statistics should be well defined. International assistance in statistics development should assist countries to organise structurally by proposing units and relationships that are best fitted into their socio-economic circumstance. Established units within the forestry sector should be strengthened to acquire capability in the maintenance of databases relevant to their specialisation.

Communication problems exist within the forestry sector of many African countries. This can be accentuated by country administrative and governance systems; number of forestry sector institutions and ministerial location of units. To improve forestry statistics and information on the forest environment, the communication problems that can be associated with the situations above have to be well managed to reduce the problems of data co-ordination, data validation and duplication of effort in forestry data acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination. Programmes for forestry statistics development in Africa must establish the appropriate infrastructure for improved communication between forestry units and for data flow to the National Forestry Statistics Co-ordinating Unit.

Communication with other national agencies in forestry statistics such as the National Bureaux of statistics, the Central Banks, Export Promotion Boards, the Ministries of Trade, the Ministries of Industry and the Customs Departments should be improved for greater assess to forestry information within their domains.

As national infrastructure for telecommunication improves, Forestry Units should be assisted to operate national networks for the promotion of information sharing and dissemination nationally. The overall ambition of the forestry sectors of Africa should be their connection to the rest of the world through Internet.

In identifying the databases in this report, the survival of the growing specialised units in African forestry such as Forest Management Units, Rural Forestry, Marketing and Utilisation, Remote Sensing and Cartography, Planning and Statistics have been assumed. The conclusion here is that a National Forestry System that is well organised and structured with officers that are professionally oriented is important to development of an efficient Forestry Statistics in Africa. These Units require national political and financial support for growth and survival.

While Forestry databases need co-ordinating officers, forestry data collection and processing should remain a major item in the schedule of all field staff. There is a need to re-emphasise the importance of field record keeping systems, such as timber extraction records; records of forest revenues including, revenues accruing to land owners; forest regeneration records including operations costs; summary of forest offences; and records of forest reservation and de-reservation.

Intensive training of officers will be needed for the development of forestry statistics in Africa. For training effectiveness however, training modules must be directed to the immediate functional responsibilities of officers. All forest officers must be made to acquire computer literacy at least in word processing, use of DOS, spreadsheets and data management programmes.

Databases should be processed analysed and published for users. Published hard copies are important in safeguarding data losses that are possible during major computer breakdowns. Forestry information centres and libraries should be developed as part of statistics development programmes.

NTFPs collection, processing and marketing form part of the crucial economic base of many rural communities in Africa. Due to the lack of data on the contribution of the products to national income, however, the NTFPs sub-sector has not received the needed policy and political support for their sustainable management. Forestry data collection programmes will need to focus a little more attention on the products. The NTFPs sub-sector is critically short of data.

The collection of timely, adequate and reliable data is expensive requiring competent statistics co-ordinators, forestry experts and support staff. Equipment and funds are also involved. For the development of forestry statistics in Africa, forestry statistics projects are necessary to define data collection objectives, data output expected and data delivery time. National budgets for forestry in Africa must therefore provide for forestry data collection annually.

Poor response to requests for data is one of the problems militating against forestry statistics in Africa. For example, industries do not readily release production information (inputs and outputs). The problem of poor response is also common where governance system is highly decentralised such as in strong federalism where states are responsible for the management of their forest resources. To effect behavioural change some compelling legal instruments may be necessary in some countries to enforce data supply to National Statistics Co-ordinating Units. However, this measure should be used only where the avenues opened for consultation within the sector such as National Forestry Development Committees or National Forestry Development Commissions are unable to use their auspices and communication channels to resolve issues of poor responses to forestry statistics.

Linking the Report to Forestry Development Programmes in Africa

The draft report completed by the consultant, according to Michael Martin, Chief, Forestry Planning and Statistics Branch, became part of the conceptual foundation for the EC- FAO Partnership programme on Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management in Africa and the Caribbean.

The project's on-going sub-regional workshops according to the Chief, are designed to support and assist AFWC member countries in underscoring the value of good statistics, highlight data needs and identify opportunities to strengthen their statistical capabilities.

The head of the FAO Forestry Statistics Branch concurs with the consultant's suggestion that sub-regional or country guidelines should be the ideal target.

The AFWC who discussed the report during its inter-sessional meeting of the Commission in Accra, 26-30 October 1998 equally commended the potentials of the report. Extracts from the proceedings of the meeting of the Commission on the report were as follows.

· "The meeting noted that the case studies featured in this paper were focused geographically on West Africa, although it drew on regional material, including country submissions on the 1997 FAO statistics survey.

· The Meeting also pointed to some possible areas for improvement in the paper. For example, the author's reference to revenue collection as a motivating factor for data collections in many countries could be misleading for various reasons. Concern was also raised over the exhaustive scope of data series proposed, which was considered over-ambitious in the context of present capacities in most countries.

· Overall, the Meeting commended the potentiality of the paper, but suggested that more work was required before finalisation. In particular, that: (i) the author should recommend a minimum database for each country; and (ii) FAO should arrange a workshop to discuss the document, in line with recommendations from AFWC"

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