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Dr. Eyog Matig Oscar, Coodinator, SAFORGEN Programme, IPGRI, Cotonou
Dr. Abdou Salam Ouedraogo, Regional Director for Africa, IPGRI, Nairobi


In 1998, FAO, IPGRI2 and ICRAF3 united their efforts to assist countries in Sahelian Africa in organizing a sub-regional workshop on the conservation, management, sustainable utilization and enhancement of forest genetic resources in dry zone Sub-Saharan Africa. The aim was to assist countries in the eco-region to assess the status of their forest genetic resources, to develop and propose priority action and to formulate recommendations on immediate follow up and implementation. The workshop, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 22-24 September 1998, was attended by thirty-five participants including national experts from 15 countries in the sub-region and representatives of a number of international and regional organizations. For further information on the workshop please refer to Forest Genetic Resources No 26 (1998), pp 9-12.

In preparation of the workshop, country experts elaborated national reports summarizing the status of forest genetic resources, identifying the main activities and the most pressing needs for action. The form and contents of these reports had been harmonised by countries in consultation with FAO in order to assure that all aspects associated with forest genetic resources be addressed, and to facilitate the preparation of a regional synthesis (see text box). Based on reports received from the countries prior to the workshop, a draft synthesis was prepared beforehand by Dr O. Eyog Matig4. During the workshop, participants discussed and commented on the draft synthesis. Based on these discussions, and taking into account additional information provided by countries, the preparation of a second draft version has been undertaken and the document is now in the final stages of revision. A summary of the main findings of the synthesis report is presented in this paper5.

Methodology used for the preparation of national reports:

National reports describe the situation of the genetic resources of the main forest trees at species level and below. This work complement other initiatives considering higher levels of organization and using an ecosystem approach. The species approach has been promoted here to help focus on practical considerations and facilitate the preparation of action-oriented conclusions and recommendations. Only species with actual value in the country (whatever the nature of the value) were considered. The process aimed at being holistic and thus, the list of priority species was established in line with a common methodology weighing up the socio-economic, ecological, cultural or other value of the species vis-à-vis the potential risks of reduction or even extinction of their main genetic components. Two types of quantitative data were collected by national experts: (i) data linked to species status (value, usage, distribution, current management and potential threats) and (ii) data linked to recommended actions for a restricted group (priority species).


The area

The synthesis report covers a geographical zone including 21 African countries6. It groups together Sahelian countries in West Africa, dry zone countries in East Africa and countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea with a significant area of dryland. The climate of the study zone is tropical with a very marked dry season. Focus is on areas with annual average rainfall between 300 - 800 mm. The intensity of the dry season is modified by altitude and the influence of the Gulf of Guinea. Climatic heterogeneity has visible consequences on the distribution of flora, in which both Sahelian, Sudanian and Guinean components can be distinguished.

Map 1. Map showing the approximate coverage of the synthesis report. Based on Menaut, 1984. From FAO, 1997.

Forest resources in the area

The area under forest7 cover in the Sahelian and North Sudanian zone is estimated at approximately 1.25 million Km2 or 10% of the total land area (FAO 1999). The typology of the natural forest is varied, from short shrub steppe to dense stands. 302 species of woody plants have been listed in national reports. The Sahelian zone is the privileged domain of Acacia species.

Forest plantations make up a relatively small proportion of the total forest area. Planting efforts during the 1970s focused on meeting the need for wood fuel and controlling desertification through establishment of plantations of fast growing introduced species. The plantation programmes were less successful than expected, however, they did encourage the establishment of national tree seed centres and the initiation of tree improvement work in some countries. More modest afforestation efforts are presently under way, and focus for seed demand and supply has shifted towards local species, mainly planted by rural communities.

Utilization of the forest resource

The human populations, mostly rural, live mainly from agriculture and livestock breeding. Industrialisation is limited, consisting essentially of primary processing units. The proportion of fuelwood covers close to 90% of total energy needs. Rural and urban populations remain very dependent on the goods and services supplied by forests, trees and multiple use plants, and this is clearly reflected in the priority species listed by the countries (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Main uses of priority species. In national reports prepared by the countries 302 species were listed as important and the uses of these priority species were reported. Figure 1 shows the distribution of priority species sub-divided into 11 different uses.
* Non Wood Forest Products
** Soil and water conservation

Pressure on forest resources and on forest genetic resources

Over exploitation of forest resources due to population growth and uncontrolled human activities (unmanaged harvest of wood and non-wood products, grazing, clearing, brush fires) represents the most serious threat to the maintenance and sustainable management of forest resources, and to forest genetic resources in particular. Risks are further amplified by recurrent episodes of drought.

In the national reports, countries assessed the conservation status of priority species. Generally precise data on this issue was not available and the assessment of the conservation status was based on estimates of number of individuals protected under different conservation schemes (reserves, conservation stands, managed forests, etc.). The intensity of perceived threats and their causes was also described and, based on this information, the level of security of each species was estimated and quantified on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 was high level of security (mild threat) and 5 was low level of security (high risk of genetic loss). Table 1 gives an example of data on conservation/threat status reported in the national reports.


As mentioned above, plantation programmes during the 1970's lead to the establishment of national tree seed centres and the initiation of tree improvement work in some countries. National tree seed centres or seed stores were established in the following countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Sudan and Togo8.

In the national reports countries also listed the species targeted for selection and improvement programmes. Table 2 includes a species by species summary of the reported activities in the field of tree improvement and selection.

Table 1: Example of information compiled in the national reports: Status of conservation and level of threats to the species Faidherbia albida

SpeciesCountryConserved inThreats and their causesDegree of security

Protected areasManaged forestsUn-managed forests
Managed for soil conservationWood or non wood production Grazing areasEnvironmental factorsClearing and fellingOvergrazingDevelopment of infrastructureOthers
Faidherbia albidaCI


X >10000

K >5,000 >1,000 >500



>1000 >1000 >100 >100mediumseriousseriousmedium
Nga >1000 >1000 >10000 >10000 >1000mildmildmildmildmild1
Sd >100



Legend: CI: Côte d'Ivoire; Cam: Cameroon; K: Kenya; Maur: Mauritania; Ng: Niger; Nga: Nigeria; Sd: Sudan; S: Senegal . Numbers refer to number of individuals conserved. X indicates that conservation efforts are in place, but these have not been quantified.

Table 2: List of species included in programmes of selection, evaluation or improvement work

SpeciesProvenance testOrchards or conservation plotsSexual or vegetative propagationMolecular analysesCountry involved in this research work
Acacia auriculiformisVV

CI, Mal
Acacia bevenosaV

Acacia niloticaV
Acacia senegalVVV
K, Cm, BF,Sd, Ng, Mal
Acacia seyalVV

K, Sd,Ng
Acacia tortilisVV

S, K, Sd
Anacardium occidentalisVV

Anogeissus leiocarpusV

VBF, Mal, Be
Atriplex halumusV

Atriplex numulariaV

Azadirachta indicaV
VVS, Cm, Ng, BF
Casuarina equisetumV

Eucalyptus camaldulensisVVVVK,S,Cm,Na,Ng,BF,Sd,CI, Tgo
Faidherbia albidaVV
VK, S, CI, Cm, BF,Sd, Ng
Khaya senegalensisV
Melia volkensiiV

Parkia biglobosaV

VBF, Cm, Na, BF
Parkia biglobosaV
Prosopis africanaV

BF, Ng
Prosopis cinerariaV

Prosopis julifloraV

VS, BF, Ng
Pterocarpus erinaceusV

Be, CI, Mal
Tamarindus indicaV

VK, BF, Cm,
Tectona grandisVVV
CI, Tgo
Ziziphus lotus

Ziziphus mauritianaV

Legend: Be: Benin; BF: Burkina Faso; CI: Côte d'Ivoire; Cam: Cameroon; K: Kenya; Mal: Mali; Maur: Mauritania; Ng: Niger; Nga: Nigeria; Sd: Sudan; S: Senegal; Tgo: Togo;


No country in dry-zone northern sub-Saharan Africa has a national institution dealing exclusively with forest genetic resources, although a particular body generally plays the role of focal point. Macro-economic policies have been influenced since the 1970s by economic restructuring and the implementation of structural adjustment programmes. Where land ownership and forest management are a public sector concern, the forestry sector has been greatly affected; budgets, manpower and responsibilities of a number of forest services have been reduced. Several countries are seeking a balance between the respective functions of public forest institutions and the national, provincial and local levels of authority. The decentralization efforts underway in most countries have had immediate implications for ownership relations and for the management, conservation and utilization of forest genetic resources. Forestry codes are increasingly taking these new developments into account (Table 3). National agricultural research centres, of which forestry is a component, have also been reformed. The general trend is towards the regionalization of agricultural research, with programmes implemented by multi-disciplinary teams. While justified and positive from many points of view, this restructuring has sometimes weakened forestry research capacity by further diluting expertise which was already at a critical level.

Table 3: Legislative provisions regarding forest management

CountryForestry code updated inForestry code being updated
Burkina Faso1997No
Côte d'Ivoire1965In progress
Eritrea1980In progress
Gambia1978In progress
Ghana1945 ?In progress
KenyaNoIn progress
Niger1974In progress
NigeriaForestry and fauna policy of 1988No
SudanLaw of 1989No
ChadVarious texts. Yes
Togo?In progress


The data compiled from the national reports on the status of forest genetic resources throughout the zone clearly shows that forest resources generally face severe and immediate pressures, and that prompt action is needed to prevent irreplaceable loss of genetic resources.

The appropriateness of preparing a sub-regional action plan on forest genetic resources, and its objectives and contents, were discussed during the sub-regional workshop in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September, 1998. Participants agreed that a sub-regional action plan on genetic resources of the Sahelian and North Sudanian zone of Africa would constitute a valuable tool, and that the plan should be based on the scientific and technical information contained in the national reports, and on ideas and proposals put forward at the meeting.

It was decided to articulate the plan in two parts: one part defining priority species at sub-regional level; and the second part describing the actions necessary to reduce the major threats to these species. A list of priority species was drawn up based on national reports, discussed during the workshop, and complemented with information provided by workshop participants.

Priority species

302 species were listed as priority species in the national reports. With the purpose of identifying tree species for collaboration projects at sub-regional level, a list of species considered priority by most countries, and hence with potential for targeted collaborative efforts in the region was prepared (Table 4). Only those species given as priority by a majority of countries (in practice 10 or more countries) are included in Table 4.

Table 4: Priority species listed by 18 countries in the sub-region

Priority speciesTotal number of countries listing the speciesCountries listing the species as a percentage of total countriesMain uses
Faidherbia albida1583%Fodder, shade, soil and water conservation, agroforestry, fuelwood
Tamarindus indica1583%Food, NWFP*, shade
Khaya senegalensis1478%Timber, fuelwood, NWFP
Acacia nilotica1267%Fuelwood, NWFP
Adansonia digitata1267%Food, shade, NWFP
Anogeissus leiocarpus1267%Fuelwood, roundwood (poles etc)
Parkia biglobosa1267%Food, agroforestry
Acacia senegal1161%NWFP, fodder
Azadirachta indica1161%Roundwood, fuelwood, NWFP
Borassus aethiopum1161%Roundwood , food, timber
Diospyros mespiliformis1161%Food, timber, fuelwood
Pterocarpus erinaceus1161%Timber, fuelwood, NWFP
Balanites aegyptiaca1056%Food, NWFP
Eucalyptus camaldulensis1056%Roundwood (poles etc), fuelwood
Vitellaria paradoxa1056%Food, fuelwood, NWFP
Ziziphus mauritiana1056%Food, fodder
* NWFP: Non wood forest products

Operational recommendations

For each species country experts indicated the most urgent operational needs. Based on this information operational priorities for the species identified for regional collaboration were defined (see Table 5).

Table 5: Operational recommendations for regional priority species

SpeciesExploration & collectionEvaluationConservationUse of germplasm
Acacia nilotica12112211
Acacia senegal11111112
Adansonia digitata32222233
Anogeissus leiocarpus12222223
Azadirachta indica22212211
Balanites aegyptiaca12121213
Borassus aethiopium22231222
Diospyros mespiliformis23231212
Eucalyptus camaldulensis11222313
Faidherbia albida22221212
Khaya senegalensis11111222
Parkia biglobosa22211221
Pterocarpus erinaceus13131313
Tamarindus indica11121123
Vitellaria paradoxa11111122
Ziziphus mauritiana22122212

Legend: 1: High priority, action should start or be continued with immediate effect; 2: Prompt action recommended, action should start within the next two biennia ; 3: Action is required, but less urgent than 1) and 2).
Exploration and collection: A: Biological information (natural distribution, taxonomy, genecology, phenology etc.) B: Collection of germplasm for evaluation.
Evaluation: C: In situ (population studies). D: Ex situ (provenance and progeny tests).
Conservation: E. In situ. F: Ex situ.
Use of germplasm: G: .Production of seed and reproductive material for plantations. H: Selection and improvement.

The information in Tables 4 and 5 defines priorities for coordinated efforts, and thus constitutes an important part of the plan of action. Based on the species prioritisation process proposals and recommendations for concrete action were identified and agreed upon. Participants agreed to group proposed activities under the following thematic areas:


A draft document comprising the synthesis report and the sub-regional plan of action described above has been prepared and is being circulated among participants of the workshop. Once comments have been received and incorporated, the documents will be published and made widely available. In addition, data contained in the national reports will be entered into REFORGEN - the FAO world wide information system on forest genetic resources - enabling users to search for information by country and by species. The information will shortly be made available through Internet at the FAO Forest Genetic Resources homepage.


In regard to the research component of follow-up to the Ouagadougou forest genetic resources workshop, the national experts took note of IPGRI's efforts with respect to the establishment of a regional programme on forest genetic resources research in Africa (SAFORGEN), an initiative they strongly supported.. It was recommended that the SAFORGEN programme, when implemented and operational, play a major role in overall coordination of forest research efforts in the sub-region.

The elements of priority forest genetic resources activities identified by countries in the Sahelian and North-Sudanian zone are not limited to species-related activities but encompass a wide range of concerns and issues relating to the forest genetic resources field. Implementation will require voluntary actions from a range of actors, including national governments, local and regional authorities, regional and international organizations (both inter-governmental and non-governmental), the scientific community, the private sector, local communities and Forest Services.


Donfack, P., 1998. Végétation des jachères du Nord-Cameroun: Typologie, diversité, dynamique, production. Thèse Doct. D'Etat. Univ. Youndé I. 225 p

FAO, 1997. Aménagement des forêts naturelles des zones tropicales sèches. FAO Conservation Paper No 32, Rome.

FAO, 1999. State of the World's Forests. Rome.

Kigomo, B. N., 1998. Support to preparation for sub-regional workshop on Conservation, management, sustainable utilization and enhancement of forest genetic resources in sub-saharan dry zone Africa, FAO, 51 p.

Ouattara N'klo, Louppe, D., 1996. "Les parcelles feu" d'Aubreville. Quelles leçons en tirer ? Le Flamboyant Nº38, 3 p.

Peltier, R. et Eyog Matig, O., 1991. Un essai sylvo-pastoral au Nord Cameroun. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 221 p.

  1. Original in French. Received August 1999
  2. International Plant Genetic Resource Institute, Rome
  3. International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, Nairobi, Kenya
  4. Consultant, IPGRI (presently coordinator of the SAFORGEN network)
  5. In order to ensure consistency of information from different sources, global data on population, areas and forest coverage is based on the State of the World's Forests, FAO, 1999
  6. Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cap-Vert, Chad , Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. Reports are available from all countries except Djibouti and Somalia.
  7. "Forests" include plant formations with tree cover of over 10% and a surface area of more than 0.5 hectares (FAO 1999)
  8. Note however that not all centres may be fully operational at the time of writing.
[F1]plan d'action mondial, p 65

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