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1. Introduction and background

Information on forestry resources is incomplete or lacking in many countries. The global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2000) found that while number of industrialised countries has reliable information on a wide array of forest attributes, the developing countries data is still very fragmentary and inappropriate for forest policy development.

Seventy-nine developing countries have never carried out national forest inventories (nfi’s) and assessments (nfa). Only 20 countries have reported on nfi’s based on field sampling. In 59 countries information was derived from remote sensing data. Information on forest area and to less extent on timber volume is that what exists in most developing countries. Complete data on volume from nation wide field inventories is very rare. The other forest resources are often not properly covered by the nfi’s. Trees outside forest (TOF) resources are also not accounted for in national data sets. Use and users of resources are also not well covered by nfi’s.

Efforts in national forest inventories and assessments, particularly in the developing countries, seem to have decreased in comparison with what was done in the 1970s and early 1980s. The reasons for this are the scarcity of financial resources on one hand and the low national capacities to plan and implement inventories on the other.

FAO has the mandate to provide assistance in forest inventory and assessments to the countries that request it. It also works with all countries to produce and provide reliable and complete data to the Global Forest Resources Assessments (GFRA). The gaps of information identified by FRA 2000 made the efforts to help a number of countries an urgent necessity.

The Inter-Governmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Inter-Governmental Forum on Forests (IFF) recommended that inventories should cover all forest and TOF resources, include all benefits, be based on low-cost approach and lead to national capacity building and technology transfer. In response to this, the FRA programme of FAO has designed an approach to support national forest resources assessments, based on low intensity systematic field, sampling that produces information on forests and trees at the national level. The approach focuses on the long term monitoring of the state of resources, the way they are managed and used and at harmonising the data sets between countries. Its objective is to help countries ensuring that national information is consistent with national needs and with reporting requirements to international processes such as GFRA, UNFF, etc. The approach was successfully tested in a pilot project in Costa Rica and then improved and adopted by other countries. Cameroon, Guatemala and the Philippines launched their national forest and tree assessments using that approach.

The FRA programme convened a workshop on 15-17 January 2003 in which the national project coordinators in the Philippines, Guatemala and Cameroon participated alongside with the FRA staff to review the progress of the on-going nfa projects and to discuss methodological issues. Four international scientists from the WCMC, Indiana University and University of Göttingen participated to the workshop.

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