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This first edition of a synthesis document, compiling a status of forest genetic resources in the Sahelian and North-Sudanian zone of Africa and a sub-regional action plan for the sustainable management of these resources, is the fruit of a process undertaken at the initiative of countries in the sub-region, towards a better consideration of the important but complex issues linked to forest genetic resources.

The synthesis and the action plan were prepared by the representatives of 15 countries assembled during a sub-regional workshop on the conservation, management, sustainable management and enhancement of forest genetic resources in Sahelian Africa, which was held from 22 to 24 September 1998 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The drafting of the documents also benefited from the active participation of 8 international, regional and bilateral institutions, the work of resource persons, as well as various national actors in Burkina Faso.

The aim of the synthesis is to supply foresters, researchers, scientists, managers and political and economic decision makers with elements of evaluation of the state of forest tree genetic resources, and appreciation of the relative values and level of importance attached to them at country and sub-regional level, on the basis of national preferences. Knowledge gaps on the diversity, availability and use of these resources are identified, and subsequent proposals for action in an informed manner are hierarchized. The action plan describes the action areas, objectives and priority activities identified by countries at sub-regional level. For the first time, it puts forward the scientific, socio-economic and political basis, as well as the framework and necessary incentives, with a view to promoting targeted, well founded and equitable cooperative activities to the benefit of states, national institutions and actors. Finally, by its nature, the plan contributes significantly to implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity in the area regarding forest tree and shrub species.

This country-led initiative represents an important step in the improvement of general knowledge related to forest genetic resources in the Sahelian and North-Sudanian region of Africa and in the dissemination of this information. The document itself should not remain frozen but should be updated at regular intervals, for example by taking into account the evolution of the status of forest genetic resources, changes in the scale of priorities, and progress in knowledge on ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. In its current state, it is aimed to act as a leading channel for targeted but flexible and evolutionary activities. As the action plan will be implemented by different actors in very diverse conditions, a pragmatic and concrete approach is put forward for its development, using the identification of priority species as the key approach. Based on these elements, more precise proposals, such as project proposals for example, could be formulated with the aim of presenting them for funding and implementation to various partners.

The plan sets ambitious but realistic and practicable goals. In order to reach them and produce tangible results, the plan will require voluntary actions from national actors in order to ensure solid implementation. Current international, regional and bilateral organizations, mechanisms and instruments, will be invited to contribute to its success.

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