Secondary forests in Africa
Tropical secondary forests are those forests that have developed after clearance (usually by humans) of the original natural forest. Although not appearing as such in statistics, tropical secondary forests occur throughout the tropics, including Africa, and the area is extensive and increasing rapidly.
Tropical secondary forests are usually an integral part of local and regional land use and production systems and inhabited by communities who are usually poor in economic resources but possess a wealth of traditional knowledge and practical experience in using and managing these forests.
If properly managed and developed, this type of forest may provide valuable and numerous ecological and economic services and are important for rural development, biological conservation, restoring site productivity and relieving pressure on undisturbed forests, and hence are important in sustainable development.
Despite their extent, importance and potential for being managed, tropical secondary forests are nationally and internationally largely invisible in current forest statistics, policy and planning, as well as in forest research.
In particular, the situation of tropical secondary forests in Africa is less clear; their status and importance have hardly been explored and documented systematically. So far, management of secondary forests has not been given significant attention in most African countries with the result that secondary forests are not part of forest management systems. Nevertheless, in various countries of the continent, interest in secondary forests is emerging and valuable research and development has been initiated.
It was against this background that from 9 to 13 December 2002 at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, an international workshop, Tropical Secondary Forest Management in (Anglophone) Africa): realities and perspectives, was held. The workshop was organized by FAO, GTZ (Germany) and EC-LNV1 (Netherlands) in collaboration with CIFOR and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
The workshop in Nairobi, focused on Anglophone African countries, was the first of two workshops to be held in Africa. In November 2003 the second workshop - for Francophone countries - will be held in Douala, Cameroon. The workshops in Africa are part of a sequence of similar regional workshops previously held, respectively, in June 1997 in Pucallpa, Peru, for Tropical America2 and in April 2000 in Samarinda, Indonesia, for Tropical Asia3.
Altogether the four workshops may give a good picture of the situation and importance of the world's tropical secondary forests, the strategies and priorities to improve their sustainable management and the required international support for cooperation.
Table 1.1 Ecological importance
· Restoration of soil productivity.
· Reduction of pests and weed population.
· Regulation of water flows and quality.
· Reduction of soil erosion and increased wind protection.
· Maintenance of biodiversity
· Carbon sequestration.
· Enhancement of biodiversity by providing a niche for ecosystems requiring high forest.
· Habitat for multipurpose agro-ecosystems.
· Agricultural and/or ranching reserve.
· Reduction of pressure on primary forests.
· Allow impoverished land to recover.
Socio-economic and cultural importance
· Edible fruits and animal protein.
· Food plants, medicines, stimulants, etc.
· Local building materials. Fuel. Materials for domestic use.
· Timber of commercial and industrial value, fibres and fuel
· Germ plasm of useful species.
· Grazing and fodder.
· Habitat for local (indigenous, settler) communities.
Ecological and economic importance of secondary forests4
1 National Reference Centre for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality of the Netherlands
2 International workshop on the current and potential state of management and development of secondary tropical forests in Latin America, by Amazon Cooperation Treaty (TCA), the Central American Commission on Forests (CCAB) , GTZ, and EC-LNV, Pucallpa, Peru, June 1997.
3 International workshop on tropical secondary forests in Asia - Reality and perspectives, by CIFOR, GTZ, and EC-LNV, Samarinda, Indonesia, April 2000.
4 Some of these uses/values may be still potential and not actual.