Secondary forests are usually defined as forests regenerating largely through a natural process after significant human disturbance of the original forest vegetation has taken place at a single point in time or over an extended period causing a major difference in forest structure and/or species composition. All over the world, interest in the management of and research on secondary forests has been part of foresters' agendas for some time. It even tends to increase due to the ongoing degradation and/or destruction of the natural, pristine forests and their conversion into other forms of land use.
For Latin America and Asia, interest in the resource and its management is reasonably well documented in various reports, scientific publications and proceedings of meetings on the subject. Regional workshops were held in Latin America (Pucallpa, Peru, 1997) and Asia (Samarinda, Indonesia, 2000) to assess the status and perspectives of secondary forests in these continents. FAO, CIFOR, ITTO, USAID, ICRAF, IUCN, WWF, CCAD and OTCA and other national and international organizations have been instrumental in supporting these activities. The focus of the workshops was on policy and local management issues of secondary forests, looking at the socio-economic and environmental interactions of secondary with primary forests in the landscape, including farmers' crop and livestock production systems. The situation of secondary forests was thoroughly examined from three thematic angles: ecological, socio-economic, policy and institutional issues affecting their management, conservation and sustainable use.
In Tropical Africa the situation of secondary forests seems more difficult to characterize. The continuous changes in land use following the destruction of natural forests and the eventual establishment of secondary forests, along with the scant information available, justify the need for more attention to secondary forests. It is also necessary to determine their present extent, status, potential and perspectives. Based on the findings on the latter, appropriate forest management strategies could be designed.
This Nairobi workshop tried to provide answers to some questions and uncertainties about secondary forests and to gather, analyse and make available knowledge on the current status, trends, extent and management in Anglophone Africa. It also aimed at identifying and understanding the processes of formation and transformation, use patterns, socio-economic, environmental, policy and institutional issues and management practices on this resource. Additionally it served as a forum to discuss and increase awareness of current policies, relevant development actions needed for a better management of the resource. It identified constraints and challenges and recommended priority actions needed for the better management of the resource.
The workshop was attended by scientists and technical experts, development and conservation specialists, representatives of governmental, national and international non-governmental organizations, and by a range of other stakeholders from Anglophone African countries. A second similar workshop will take place in Douala, Cameroon, in November 2003, for Francophone Africa. Together both workshops will provide an overview of the status and outlooks of secondary forests in the whole of tropical Africa.
FAO would like to thank the National Reference Centre for Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality (EC LNV) of the donor country, Netherlands, as well as GTZ, ICRAF and CIFOR for having collaborated in the planning and organization of this first African workshop on tropical secondary forests. Our appreciation is extended to the host country, Kenya, and to all participants for having contributed considerably to the discussions during the event.
El Hadji Sène
Forest Resources Division
Forestry Department, FAO