There are several socio-economic issues related to secondary forests in Africa and these have been discussed under separate headings and sub-headings below.
Wildlife is and has always been a major source of meat for the African people (Bowen-Jones, 1998). Africans have been hunting and eating bush meat for centuries. It is an essential part of the diet, providing virtually the only source of protein in the rural areas in equatorial Africa, and a significant portion in the cities. For poor people who lack expensive refrigeration, the storage qualities of smoked bush meat only add to its dietary importance. Bush meat is also sold in local markets and is a major source of income to many rural households.
Much of the information available on bush meat is from the Central and West African countries such as Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria where the issue is of critical importance. The issue of bush meat is one that spans virtually the whole of Africa, threatening a multitude of species of wildlife. Some wild animals have higher tolerance of hunting pressure than others because of their habitats, and their reproductive potential. Others may be subjected to less hunting pressure because of the taste of their meat or their ease of preparation. Some species are also put under varying pressures depending on the techniques used locally to catch them (Robinson and Redford, 1994).
However, during recent years the scale of killing animals for bush meat has led to the `empty forest' syndrome i.e. the forests remain intact, but their fauna has ended up in village cooking pots or markets like Elig Edzoa in Cameroon (Pye-Smith, 2002b). Hunting of wild animals for bush meat for domestic consumption and sale are pertinent socio-economic issues in forestry not only limited to secondary forests. It has been a common but controversial enterprise for local people in Cameroon and has attracted much criticism outside Africa. Many conservation organisations believe that international aid should be conditional on African governments instituting what the US-based Bush meat Crisis Task Force calls `responsible environmental action'. According to Pye-Smith (2002b), it was pressure from Africa that led to the recent ban on the commercial bush meat trade in Cameroon.
This may be seen as a victory for the conservation lobby, but in this case, bush meat traders need to receive advance warning before putting a ban even where they are operating under license like in Cameroon. Moreover, there is concern about the way in which western-inspired conservation policy is being imposed on Africa. There is a strong argument that a ban should only be put on bush meat hunting and trade as a short-term measure until sustainable systems of harvesting are put in place. This argument is based on the fact that human welfare should not be treated as a matter of secondary concern.
There is also a need to distinguish between commercial and subsistence hunting. For many people in rural areas, hunting is the only means of getting meat. In Uganda's Kibale Forest National Park, local people have permission from the Park's management to collect non-timber forest products from the community use zones which are largely made up of secondary forests (Obua, 1988). But the same opportunity is often used to hunt bush meat as well from bush pigs (Potamocherus porcus), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), red duiker (Cephalophus harveyi), sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekeii) and giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhagenii). The birds commonly hunted for bush meat are francolin (Francolinus spp) and guinea fowl (Guterra edoudardi).
In Cameroon, bush meat is the only way of getting cash among some communities. The animals killed include the endangered white-throated monkey and pangolin. Hunting profits are used to pay school fees, medical bills and meet other basic needs. There is a need for an active system that gives proprietary rights to local people. If local people can exclude hunters from outside, the chances are that they will manage wildlife sustainably. This view is gaining support, even among some conservationists. An EU funded project which manages protected areas in Cameroon and neighbouring countries, is hoping to establish a plot scheme which will grant hunting concessions to villagers around Dja forest reserve. The project will work out how much bush meat is required for each village and set hunting quotas.
Shifting cultivation remains a major socio-economic problem in many forest areas. There are various definitions of shifting cultivation. Most commonly shifting cultivation is defined as any agricultural system in which forests are cleared (usually by fire) and cultivated for shorter periods than they are fallowed (Conklin, 1957). The major impact of shifting cultivation is forest degradation and the conversion of many natural forests in Africa into secondary forests. With development of the agro-ecosystem approach and its holistic view of agricultural systems as part of the greater natural ecosystem, there has been a reconceptualization of shifting cultivation. The agro-ecosystem approach attempts to integrate the multiplicity of factors affecting cropping systems. Many earlier studies described the swidden system as inherently stable, but more recent work based on an agro-ecosystem approach has stressed swidden/fallow as part of an overall subsistence strategy.
As a subsistence strategy, shifting cultivation has not been popular with governments and international agencies. It is commonly regarded as the major cause of forest degradation and soil erosion. To clear a forest, use the swidden field for a year or two, and then move on to another patch of the forest is indeed wasteful if the forest is perceived in term of timber and biodiversity values (Warner, 1991). Destruction of trees by fire is of concern because trees could rather be used.
In Africa, indigenous tribes throughout the humid tropics in the frontier agricultural zones practise shifting cultivation. Usually the landless immigrants without a background of forest management enter, cultivate and degrade the forest. Immigrant settlers are considered to be far more destructive because they lack local knowledge of the forest environment and use agricultural methods from the area of origin rather than those suited to the area of resettlement (Moran, 1987).
Shifting cultivators usually have a choice between primary forest and secondary forest. In Africa, it is increasingly rare to find a primary forest available for crop fields. Experiences from Nigeria indicate that shifting cultivators therefore tend to cultivate fields in secondary forests (Okigbo, 1982). Since a field will be planted more than once, the choice of forest will have to fulfil the present and projected needs. Forest site selection depends on soil fertility and distance from the house or village, year round accessibility of the site, potential crops, labour availability and supernatural constraints (sacred groves, presence of spirits etc) (Brokensha and Riley, 1980).
Soil fertility is recognised by shifting cultivators as related to forest growth (Osemeobo, 1993). A mature forest is usually considered as having soils that are good for crops. This is confirmed by soil research that links nutrients to biomass in the tropical rainforest ecosystem; the greater the biomass, the more nutrients available to the crops. While there is a preference among shifting cultivators for mature forest, different groups have different preferences as to whether the forest should be primary or secondary (Nietschmann, 1973).
Fire has long been used as a tool for land management. Deliberate fires have been used to scare wild animals from dense vegetation, clear footpaths, control pests e.g. tsetse flies, attract game back into re-growth, regenerate plant species and provide fire breaks around campsites (Whelan, 1995). Fire represents a relatively cheap land management tool. Controlled fire can be used to protect a forest (primary and secondary) against subsequent wildfire, to maintain particular species of plants or animals, to eliminate undesirable species, to enhance species diversity, and for numerous other purposes. The use of fire to reduce the likelihood of occurrence and intensity of a subsequent wildfire has received much attention, driven predominantly by the needs of forestry to protect the timber resource. Other management objectives which may involve the deliberate use of fire, and may require some knowledge of the ecological effects of an applied fire regime are removal of species in competition with desired timber species, control of soil-dwelling pathogens and weeds and stimulation of regeneration of desired tree species.
Rural populations living near forests rely on herbal medicines for their health and dental care. Agricultural clearing, whilst increasing the amount of weedy species used medicinally, has been the major cause of depletion of medicinal plants from forests. Commercial trade in herbal medicines is not well developed in many rural parts of Africa. Collection of herbal medicines is highly species specific primarily for local use. Leaf material forms the major component of plant parts of medicines used to treat people or livestock. Most species collected are fast growing plants gathered from outside the forest. Therefore the impact of medicinal plant harvesting on secondary forests is relatively low even for favoured species.
Edible wild plants characterise disturbed forest sites/secondary forests and represent a resource seasonally used as dietary supplement or as a subsistence source of income from the sale of fruits or edible fungi. Few species are used and the impact is low. It is recommended that collection be allowed in multiple-use zones.
Beekeeping is a form of land use which is dependent on and can complement secondary forest conservation. There are two conservation concerns about beekeeping: Firstly, the possibility of fires associated with honey harvesting, and, secondly, the felling of trees for wooden hives.
Basketry combines traditional skills and local materials to produce a range of woven articles for storage and processing agricultural crops of for home use. Plants materials used are often harvested from secondary forests and vary from fast-growing, productive wetland species to scarce, slow-growing climbers that are found at low density in the forest.
A range of wooden items is found in most households surrounding forests. They are important in food processing (stamping mortars and pestles), collection (milk pails), consumption (spoons, mugs), and as walking sticks. Tree use for utensils is often selective, with hard woods required for mortars, while softer species are acceptable for mugs, pails, drum frames and animal sculptures. Although commercial scale harvesting concentrating on single species may result in localised over-exploitation if not regulated, impact of use for carving on secondary forests is small compared to uses such as cutting for timber, poles, charcoal, beer boats, canoes and bean stakes.
Housing is a basic need in all areas surrounding forests and wild plant resources are an important source of most low-cost housing material. Selected poles must be straight, preferably durable and of a suitable diameter. Harvesting poles from the forest is labour intensive.
Woody biomass is the main source of household energy for cooking and heating. Wood is also used for baking bricks, clay pots and charcoal production. The impact of dead wood collection is low compared to live wood for fuel or building materials (Cunningham, 1996).
Forests provide dry season grazing for rural communities living in the immediate neighbourhood. Fodder may also be obtained for animals being kept under zero grazing. Pressure on secondary forest arising from grazing is often high and destructive because the animals trample on and destroy seedlings thereby impairing natural regeneration.
Buffer zone agroforestry is an important socio-economic issue linked to secondary forests. It is a management strategy used to reduce the impact on the latter. Agroforestry has many features which make it attractive for the stabilising of land use in buffer zones that it has sometimes been regarded as a magic formula for successful forest management and conservation. Changing the ways in which rural people use trees in their farming systems presents the same problems as any other form of rural development activity. The innovations in buffer zone agroforestry have to correspond to the aspirations of the people and should yield more for the work invested in their establishment than any alternative activity (Sayer, 1991).
Many tree crops and multi-purpose trees planted in buffer zone agroforestry provide products for local use. High world prices for the commodities produced by tropical tree crops make buffer zone agroforestry attractive for generating significant income. The temptation to promote the planting of these crops in buffer zones is then very great. High commodities may create stable employment on a fixed area of land whilst constituting a physical feature or barrier around the forest thereby providing valuable watershed protection functions (Sayer, 1991). Buffer zone agroforestry is practiced in many parts of Africa to protect primary and secondary forests e.g. the oil palms in Cameroon, Nyayo tea zones in Kenya, tea in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, cocoa in Ghana and many others.
Agroforestry and tree crops are highly appropriate uses of land in the buffer zones. Buffer zone agroforestry systems using indigenous trees and those that use a large number and variety of trees are particularly good at providing buffer zone functions to forests threatened by human pressure. Buffer zones provide an opportunity to preserve traditional landraces of tree crops, fruit trees and multipurpose trees. Wherever possible, buffer zone projects should promote the use of these local varieties and avoid introducing exotic species, or even exotic varieties of local species.
Recent economic development policies such as structural adjustment programmes being implemented by African countries requires some of the natural forests to be set a side as protected areas. Such forests make important contributions to humanity by conserving the natural heritage for the enjoyment of people and ensuring ecological balance as a nation's population increases. The upkeep of the forests, however, represents a substantial outlay. To recoup these costs, many countries have embarked on the promotion of forest ecotourism as a self-financing mechanism and hence as a tool for conservation. However, the ecotourism carrying capacity of forests is usually not known and facilities are established without prior assessment of the likely ecological impacts of ecotourism development.
The ecotourist usually visits forests with unique attractions in the spirit of appreciation, participation and sensitivity. The beauty and diversity of the forest and the diverse range of species such as birds, primates, small and large mammals and butterflies attract tourists to the forest. Forests that contain endangered, threatened or endemic species usually attract tourists, even degraded and secondary forests. Such species attract environmentally conscious tourists to make a contribution to their conservation. Forest ecotourism is developed in natural forests that have comparative advantages over other tourist destinations by offering unique tourism opportunities such as chimpanzee or gorilla tourism.
Over the last decades, global concerns about deforestation, environmental degradation, and poverty that follow in their wake have encouraged governments and ordinary citizens to rethink the principles which have guided the management of forests. The paradigm of community-based forest management covers a broad spectrum of forest types including secondary forests. The discussion that follows in this section is pursued on that basis. Rethinking the principles and assumptions of forest management has meant reconsidering the roles of the different individuals and communities whose livelihoods depend on forest ecosystems (Menzies, 2000). These actors make decisions which affect the condition of the forest, especially secondary forest. Ignoring forest-dependent communities has excluded those people who are perhaps best placed to monitor the use of forest resources. At worst, it has impoverished communities, created tensions and conflicts between them and the forest administration, and at times it has even undermined state authority.
Community-based forest resources management (CBFRM) has been variously referred to as Joint Forest Management, Collaborative Forest Management or Participatory Forest Management, all encompassed by the concept of natural resources management (CBNRM). CBNRM has become a strategy with calls from international agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Bank and others for governments to foster community participation in forest and natural resources management. CBFRM is still more admired as a principle than it is understood and implemented in practice. Experiences from different African countries indicate that CBFRM can in fact represent very different sets of activities offering vastly different sets of rights and responsibilities to communities with very different concepts of who or what is the community and who represents the community.
CBFRM has been adopted by many African countries as an alternative strategy for managing common pool forest resources (Gombya-Ssembajjwe, 2000). The term has been used to encompass any situation in which a group of local people exercise some control in the use of forests (Arnold, 1993), especially those found in their local communities. In many Anglophone countries such as Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, national forest policies and programmes have changed in favour of devolution of state control over forest reserves to the local communities. Policy implementation has in most cases not been followed suit thereby leaving local communities to encounter difficulties in asserting their rights (Seymour and Rutherford, 1990).
There is undoubtedly a great need to integrate economic incentives into community-based approaches to secondary forest management. Setting in place the right economic conditions for community involvement in sustainable forest management is not however wholly the responsibility of the forest sector. Action is also required in the other sectors of the economy, particularly those which conflict with community involvement in sustainable forest management, and especially through identifying and dismantling the perverse incentives that discriminate against sustainable forests as a locally profitable and economically desirable land and resources use.
The subject of sacred groves or traditional forest reserves has not been dealt with widely. They are important for cultural, historical and material reasons. However, increasing attention is being given to local knowledge of forest resource use, management and conservation. A traditional forest reserve (sacred grove) is a forested area no less than 0.04 ha and is protected by residents of the adjacent area in accordance with their customary laws (Gerden and Mtallo, 1990). The existence and management of sacred groves is not based on government laws; sacred groves are solely rooted in the local communities (Gombya-Ssembajjwe, 1997). Although sacred groves are meant for spiritual worship and traditional sacrifices, many have been degraded by timber harvesting and developed into secondary forests.
Rights to and responsibilities in forest resources management and utilization are both policy and socio-economic issues. In most former British colonies, western tenure systems were introduced and control over land transferred from local institutions to the new political institutions. In many of these countries, traditional rights of access to land resources were retained thereby creating dual type of tenure system. This caused confusion as in most cases the legal status of land and forest resources were not clear to the managers and users of these resources. The existence of a dual tenure system meant that people could be faced with the difficulty of settling similar disputes under the two systems (Arnold, 1999). Forest conflicts often originate from the way forests are managed and used. The major forest conflicts are those relating to utilization and management rights (Ochieng-Odhiambo, 1998). However, there are conflicts both within and between communities that could be generated by community forestry policy interventions. In all the Anglophone countries, there are large sections of the population that depend directly and almost entirely on forests for their survival.
Among the most important factors that affect the level of consumptive use of forests in many African countries is security of tenure and law enforcement (Banana and Gombya, 1999). Security of tenure is even more important than the type of tenure (Fisher, 1995) because where law enforcement is not adequate, there is open access and use of forest resources, much to the benefit of those that lack security of tenure.
Conflicts over the appropriation, management and use of forest resources can pose significant constraints to sustainable forest management. Conflicts often arise over resource use and control between governments, their agencies, the private sector and local communities (Kaboggoza, 2000). Forest resource-based conflicts are a product of poor and or unclear natural resources policies and unresolved socio-economic problems. Even where a natural forest has been degraded (leading to creation of a secondary forest) and where community use zones established to facilitate monitoring and control of forest utilization, conflicts remain over the type, quantity and frequency of product harvesting. Conflicts that involve forest-dependent communities are seldom taken into account when formulating forest policies, an omission that marginalises the poor, especially women, among indigenous communities.
The major sources of conflict which affect the establishment and management of secondary forests are:
There is a need to integrate conflict management into national forest policy frameworks, identify ways and means of including forestry and other policies that impinge upon the forestry sector and ensure greater participation of forest-dependent communities in the policy formulation process. Guidelines have been developed to help in the management of forest resource-based conflicts (Kaboggoza, 2000).
Provision of land and resettlement of people living illegally in protected forests are important processes in the economic empowerment of local communities and conservation of forest resources. Conservation and utilisation of forest resources directly relate to the processes of planning, organisation and control. Early approaches paid more attention to resource conservation than the needs of the local communities (Anderson and Grove, 1989). Yet for people living near protected forest resources and largely depending on local resources for their livelihood, excluding them from forest management and conservation programmes would adversely affect their socio-economic wellbeing.
Resettlement of encroachers from protected forests is often aimed at reducing human pressure on such resources. As such, governments and conservation agencies usually support resettlement of encroachers in order to reduce illicit resource use (Mugabe et al., 1998). Forced evictions create conflicts which result in rapid resource degradation. Forest reserves in Africa have experienced illicit resource use mainly due to unsustainable land use systems around them (Barrow, 1991; Grainger, 1993). The lack of secure land and alternative economic activities will continue to present formidable obstacles to the management and conservation of forest resources, be they in the primary or secondary forests. Without economic self-reliance, it will be difficult for local communities to live on subsistence farming only.
The mutual interdependence of conservation and development forms the central theme of the World Conservation Strategy, launched by IUCN, WWF and UNEP in 1980. This ground breaking initiative defined conservation as the `management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations' (IUCN, 1980). The importance of forest conservation to the development process is stressed by the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (FAO, 1985). This proposes a number of ways to conserve tropical forests, including minimising the damage caused by selective timber extraction and reducing demand on remaining forests by improving agroforestry and reforestation. These and other measures have been proposed at national level to promote the diversification and sustainability of forest use in several African countries.
Because of increasing human pressure on forest resources and the fact that forest products are becoming more scarce and valuable (Kapalaga, 1992), it is important that forests (including secondary forests) are managed for multiple-uses rather than single products. In addition, politicians and government planners are more oriented to agricultural production than establishment of protected forests and conservation areas. These trends have underlined the need to integrate conservation into development process, stressing multiple-use functions of forests. However, the only sure way to achieve long-term conservation of forest resources is the establishment of a linkage between conservation and development.
Many of Africa's secondary forests, now recovering from the impacts of illegal exploitation and encroachment, are being managed under the multiple use policy that allows controlled harvesting in demarcated areas referred to as multiple use or community use zones.
Multiple use harvesting is a strategy aimed at sustainable forest utilisation and conservation where people are expected to participate in protecting and using forest resources (Sayer and Poore, 1987; Cunningham, 1999; WWF-SBSTTA, 2000). The basic principle behind multiple use (and use of non-wood forest products) is to help offset some of the lost opportunities and better justify conservation as a form of land use with benefits directed to those living closest to the protected forest.
Around protected areas, the potential role of local community institutions (like resource user groups) to advance community interests, is often overridden by the interests of more powerful players like central government and conservation agencies. In such cases communities have little or no mandate to deal with the most critical problems affecting them as people living next to a protected area (Namara and Nsabagasani, 2001). There is usually evidence of illegal harvesting outside the demarcated multiple-use zones, giving an indication that resource harvesters could be responsible for such illegal acts.
On a local scale, a key tool for promoting a balance between forest conservation and resource use is the concept of the Biosphere reserve. Biosphere reserves aim to integrate rural development with conservation by establishing multiple-use buffer zones around core areas of high biological diversity. In Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda, for instance, the conversion of some forest reserves to national parks in the past 10 years was accompanied by the development of multiple-use zones where local people can harvest bush meat, medicinal plants and fibres.
Past and current harvesting practices may affect the distribution and abundance of a species and, depending on the intensity, may even give rise to the formation of secondary forests. For instance, if harvesting occurs in both preferred and marginal habitats, but reproduction and dispersal is still sufficient to allow for the re-establishment of marginal habitat populations, then harvesting may be sustainable in both habitat types. When harvesting intensity is great, however, there may not be sufficient propagules for dispersal into marginal habitats even if regeneration occurs in the preferred habitat, and the populations will rapidly go extinct. Variation in effective dispersal from preferred to marginal habitats may occur naturally or may be controlled by harvesting practices.