Revenue can be collected in the forestry sector in many ways. Charges can be levied on the volume of outputs produced, the area of forest used, income or profits from forest operations or specific activities. Charges can vary by type of forest, types of outputs produced or type of producer. In countries that have specific funds for different aspects of forest management, charges can also be collected for different purposes.
Although many forest revenue studies focus on the level of charges, the types of charges used, or the structure of the forest revenue system, can also have a major impact on the efficiency of the revenue system and the way that forests are managed. This section describes the different types of forest charges that are currently in use in the forestry sector in Africa.
Forest charges by type of forest
Most countries in Africa have many different types of forest. Apart from the distinction between natural forest and forest plantations, the main factor that is recognised in most forest revenue systems is the distinction between different types of forest ownership or control. In very broad terms, three different types of forest ownership are generally recognised in most forest revenue systems: public ownership; community ownership; and private ownership.
Public ownership. Forests owned by the Government are referred to by a number of different names in different countries, including: forest reserves; gazetted forests; demarcated forests; national forests; forest parks; and state forests. In most countries, only one level of government owns forests. This is usually the national government but, in countries with a high degree of decentralisation, state governments may own forests (e.g. Nigeria and Ethiopia). In a few countries, more than one level of Government (i.e. national, state and local government) may own forests (e.g. Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe). All countries collect revenues from production in publicly owned forests, although charges may only apply to some types of products.
Community ownership. Forests owned by communities are also referred to by a number of different names, including: community forests; community forest reserves; village forests; co-operative forests; and joint forest management areas. Community ownership or, at least, community management of forests has become much more common in countries in recent years. In most countries, the Government collects some revenues from production in community forests. In many cases, community forests have been created by transferring ownership or control of publicly owned forests to local communities and revenues are collected and shared between the Government and communities.
Private ownership. Private ownership of forests is not common in Africa and only a few countries reported having significant areas of privately owned forests. Privately owned forest plantations are more common than privately owned natural forests and only a few countries reported having privately owned natural forests. Governments do not generally collect revenues from production in privately owned forest plantations although they sometimes do in privately owned natural forests.
The above discussion has referred to ownership of forests, but it should be noted that ownership is a complicated subject and is often related to other issues such as rights to access and harvest forest products and rights to control the use and management of the forest. Thus, for example, it is quite common to find that an individual may own a forest, but that they do not have all of the rights that would normally be associated with ownership. Furthermore, others may have the right to take some products from a forest, such as non-wood forest products (NWFPs), although they do not own the forest.
In addition to this, in some countries the ownership of land (which may, in itself, be a complicated matter) can be separated from the ownership of the trees or forests growing on the land. For example, it is quite common to find forest laws stating that the government owns all trees or, at least, all indigenous trees in a country irrespectively of who owns the land. Thus, the situation may arise where land is owned by an individual or community, but that they do not own the trees growing on it
One last point to note is that the areas of land designated as different types of forest may not actually match the areas of land in a country that contain trees. For example, in many countries, areas designated as forest reserves are only partly covered with trees. In addition, when the total area of forest in various legally recognised ownership categories is calculated, this is often much less than the total area of forest in a country. Most of the country reports on forest revenue systems do not explain whether charges are collected from production in areas that are not formally designated as "forests", nor do they explain whether charges are collected from the cutting of trees outside forests.
In general, most of the country reports on forest revenue systems are not very clear about which charges apply to each different type of forest. Nor are they very clear about the areas of forest in different ownership categories. For example, Table 1 compares the ownership information given in the country reports (for the 25 countries reviewed here) with the total forest area in these countries estimated in the Global Forest Resource Assessment (FAO, 2001). It appears that only ten percent of the total forest area is formally classified as being owned or controlled by the state, communities or private sector.
If there is uncertainty in countries about the types of forest where charges will be collected, this will reduce the incentive for private individuals and communities to invest in forest management on their land and this could be one of the obstacles to improved forest management.
Forest charges by activity
The production of most forest products involves several different stages, from the harvesting of raw materials in the forest to the sale of the finished product. Forest revenue can be collected at one or more of the different stages during this process. This is a second way in which forest revenue systems currently vary considerably between different African countries.
During the production process, the four main activities where forest charges are usually levied are as follows:
Production or harvesting of raw materials. The first stage in the production process is the production or harvesting of raw materials (i.e. roundwood or unprocessed NWFPs). All countries collect revenues from charges on production and these charges can be in the form of charges based on the volume or value of output, charges based on the areas of forest used or fixed charges that are collected when permits are issued to collect products for a fixed period of time.
Figure 2 The number of countries collecting charges
by different activities
Conveyance. The next stage is the conveyance or movement of forest products to processing facilities or the market. Conveyance charges are usually levied on the movement of unprocessed products (e.g. firewood and industrial roundwood) although they may also be levied on processed products such as charcoal and sawnwood. Charges may be based on the volume or weight of products being moved or on the type of transport used.
Figure 3 The different charges collected in countries
Processing. A number of countries regulate the forest processing industry by issuing licences to produce certain products or to use certain types of machinery. Charges are sometimes collected when these licences are issued. Most of these charges are flat-rate monthly or annual charges and these charges are sometimes based on the capacity of the processing facility.
Trade. The last point where forest charges are sometimes collected is when finished products are either sold on the domestic market or exported. Many countries in Africa collect charges from trade in forest products. Again, charges are usually collected as part of a licensing system, but the types of charges used usually depends on whether the trade is domestic or international. Charges on domestic trade are usually collected as flat-rate charges by the week, month or year. Charges collected on international trade are usually based on the volume or value of products exported.
Figure 2 shows the number of countries collecting charges by each of the different activities. As the figure shows, all countries use production charges except the Seychelles (which do not really have a forest revenue system). The next most common type of charges are charges on trade, then charges on processing and conveyance. Figure 3 shows the charges (by activity) in countries. This figure shows that most countries collect charges at two or three different stages of the production process. A few countries have very simple systems and just collect production charges (e.g. Lesotho), while three countries (Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda) collect charges at all four stages during the production process.
It should also be noted that the charges shown here are only those charges that are specific to the forestry sector. In addition to these, producers in most countries also have to pay a number of more general taxes and it is quite common for them to have to pay ten or more different taxes in total.
Forest charges by type of product
Broadly speaking, forest charges are collected on five different types of product:
Woodfuel. Most countries collect charges from the production and/or conveyance of woodfuel (i.e. fuelwood and charcoal). These charges are usually based on the volume or weight of woodfuel (sometimes, conveyance charges are based on the type of transport used). In a few countries, specific areas of forest are set-aside for woodfuel production and area-based charges are collected.
Figure 4 The number of countries collecting charges
by type of product
Industrial roundwood. All countries collect charges from the production of industrial roundwood. Charges are usually based on the volume of production or number of trees cut, with the level of charges varying according to the species and/or quality of roundwood produced. Many countries with more developed forest concession systems (e.g. in West and Central Africa) also collect charges based on the area of concessions.
Processed wood products. In most of the countries where charges are collected on trade in forest products, these charges are applied to processed wood products (i.e. sawnwood and wood-based panels) as well as roundwood. These charges are usually based on the volume of trade, with charges varying according to the species and/or quality of product.
Figure 5 The number of products where charges are
collected in countries
Non-wood forest products. Many countries collect charges on the production of non-wood forest products (NWFPs). In most cases, these charges are collected on just one or two products (often bamboo and rattan), but a few countries collect charges on a wide range of NWFPs (e.g. in some states in Nigeria). In countries where hunting is a major activity, charges per animal are often collected (e.g. in many of the Sahelian countries).
Other products and services. Many countries also collect charges on a number of other miscellaneous products and services. Examples include: charges for hunting licences; charges for ecotourism permits; and charges to take soil, stones and minerals from the forest.
In general, most countries in Africa collect charges from a full range of forest products and services (see Figures 4 and 5). However, there may still be scope to introduce some new charges, particularly for new and innovative types of forest services.
Forest charges by type of producer
The last major difference in the structure of forest revenue systems in countries is the way that they treat different types of producer. Broadly speaking, most national forestry policies seem to explicitly (or, sometimes, implicitly) make a distinction between commercial production and subsistence production (or production for the producers own use), particularly with reference to the production of NWFPs. These differences are usually reflected in the forest revenue systems in countries. A few countries also make some distinctions between different scales of production (i.e. large forest concessionaires as opposed to pitsawyers and smaller producers). These differences can be summarised as follows:
Charges for commercial roundwood production. Forest charges are collected from commercial roundwood production in all countries. In most countries, the levels of charges are the same, except in the following cases:
DR Congo; Malawi; Uganda; Tanzania; and Zambia, all recognise pitsawing as a separate production activity and some forest charges are lower for pitsawyers.
Senegal has a separate set of production charges for artisans, who are allowed to harvest certain types of wood for their activities.
Some of the forest charges used in some states in Nigeria are varied by the scale of production.
Charges for subsistence roundwood production. Most countries are not very clear about whether forest charges should be collected on subsistence roundwood production. Central African Republic and DR Congo state explicitly that a small amount of roundwood may be used for personal use without the payment of any forest charges. A few other countries (e.g. Burundi; Ethiopia; Kenya and Lesotho) are also quite clear that roundwood production charges should be paid on all roundwood produced. In most other countries, it seems likely that subsistence production might be allowed, but that this is not clear in the laws and regulations describing forest revenue collection.
Charges on the production of NWFPs. About half of the countries in Africa state quite clearly that forest charges are only collected on the commercial production of NWFPs. In addition, in most of these countries, charges are only collected on the NWFPs that are mostly used commercially (e.g. bamboo and rattan as opposed to fruits, nuts and berries). In the other countries, it is unclear whether any distinction is made between NWFP production for commercial or subsistence use, although it seems likely that charges would not be collected on subsistence use of NWFPs.