E. M. Shumba2 and P.E.S. Mwale3
Originally established as a regional organization between nine member countries with the aim to "facilitate flexible coordination on those aspects of national development plans which have potential regional impact", the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as of today has 14 member countries: Angola, Botswana, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
SADC has established a number of Coordinating Units in several sectoral areas of relevance to regional cooperation. The overall coordination of the Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources sectors is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe government, while forestry matters are specifically followed by a Forestry Sector Technical Coordination Unit (FSTCU) hosted by the Department of Forestry of Malawi.
SADC encompasses a large forest area of approximately 260 million hectares or 29% of the land area (1995 data, in FAO 1999). The forest types of the SADC countries are diverse including humid tropical, dry tropical, mountain and temperate forests. Forest cover among countries is uneven, ranging from 0.2% of land area in Lesotho to more than 48% in the DR of the Congo. Pressure on the forest resources due to agricultural expansion, increased fuelwood collection, commercial harvesting and livestock grazing is heavy in many places. This pressure, fuelled by growing human populations, is leading to depletion of the forest resource; from 1990 to 1995, the reported loss of forest cover in the SADC region amounted to 0.8% per year (FAO 1999). There is consensus that the rate of forest depletion far exceeds that of its replenishment and that there is an urgent need to increase efforts in reforestation and tree planting to complement natural forest management. Plantations, which are now mainly being established by communities and the private sector, are becoming a more significant component of the forestry sector in the region. The importance of the availability (in quantity and quality) of reproductive materials in tree planting and village forestry has increasingly been recognized and pointed out as a main limitation in several countries. It is against this background that the SADC Tree Seed Centres Network (TSCN) project has been established.
The objective of the project was to achieve a sufficient and sustainable supply of high quality seeds of a diversity of species and thus encourage and support tree planting activities in the region. Emphasis was given to supporting village and private forestry, for the provision of timber, fuelwood, food, fodder, and other products and service of high importance to rural communities. The project aimed to reach this objective through strengthening the region's National Tree Seed Centres (NTSCs) whose missions were to "assist in achieving the optimum contribution of forestry to economic and social life in the SADC countries and to the environment by ensuring sufficient supplies of selected quality tree seed germplasm in perpetuity"; and through the establishment of a regional network of these centres. The project was gradually expanded to cover all SADC member countries (with the exception of the DR of the Congo, and the Seychelles, which joined SADC after the project was initiated).
The SADC-TSCN project ran from 1992 to December 1998 and was implemented by a Field Management Office based in Harare, manned by a Project Manager and a Training Coordinator supported by four Technical Specialists strategically located within the region. Participation of SADC countries in the project was coordinated by FSTCU. The project was supported by contributions from national governments and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); the project was executed on behalf of the Government of Canada by the Canadian Forest Service.
The project had the following main technical components:
During the early stages, the network members identified national priority species which were considered to be important and which should be targeted for activities in the field of seed supply and seed physiology (see Table 1).
The main achievements of the project included the following:
Table 1: Priority species identified at national and regional levels4 (both native and introduced)
Olea europea subsp. africana
|Species||Countries where species is reported important|
|Pterocarpus angolensis||Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
|Faidherbia albida||Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe|
|Eucalyptus and Pinus spp.||All countries|
After six years of collaborative work and after having successfully integrated two new members (Mauritius and South Africa), the Network and the national seed centres have developed mechanisms which are actively servicing the forest seed and germplasm fields. Assets include provision of a strong support at both regional and national levels, modern facilities and skilled people, capacity to support national policies and to serve private customers, availability of local and regional expertise, wide-ranging collaboration programmes with research and development institutions, and commitment to continuing professional training. National staff have developed close professional relations at regional level which they wish to continue. Member countries have expressed their commitment to assist each other in the field of forest genetic resources and further develop networking through the SADC-TSCN.
Operationally, the Network is now being managed by the Research and Development Division of the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission which has been designated Network Coordinator by SADC member countries. The Division has effectively replaced the Field Management Office and works closely with member states and SADC/FSTCU in programme implementation. The twelve countries involved and CIDA have agreed to jointly fund the functioning of the network during a transition period of two years and six months (1999-2001). During this period of time, the network will aim at:
Network members have identified the following activities for the 1999-2001 period:
The strong linkages created between national institutions by the SADC Tree Seed Centres Network have been instrumental in fostering a common approach to national concerns on the procurement, handling, storage and utilization of forest and tree seed. Besides seed technology, many other issues of regional significance relate to tree genetic resources. Several national tree seed centre managers have for example, expressed their concern over the growing pressures on, and threats to, native forest seed stands.
In order to gain an overall view of the state of the genetic resources of forests and trees in Eastern and Southern Africa, identify gaps and complementarity of action, agree on priorities and accordingly develop a comprehensive regional strategy for the conservation, management and sustainable utilization of forest genetic resources, SADC Forestry Units, in collaboration with FAO and other partners, will organize a workshop encompassing all aspects of the forest genetic resources field in SADC countries in early 2000. During the workshop, priority tree species and activities amenable to regional collaboration will be identified, complementing national priority lists previously established. When finalized, the regional strategy will constitute a useful framework to guide the action of regional mechanisms and instruments in the field of forest tree genetic resources. The SADC Tree Seed Centres Network, which has proven its capacity to considerably increase the efficiency of individual national programmes, and holds significant comparative advantages, could be a valuable platform in its implementation.
To strengthen its capacity and broaden its technical experience, the Network is seeking partnerships with international, regional and national programmes and institutions which are complementary in scope. Further information on the Network can be obtained from:
The Tree Seed Centre Network Coordinator
Zimbabwe Forestry Commission
Research & Development Division
P O Box HG 595
Forestry Department Headquarters
P O Box 30048
Telephone: 265- 781 000
Fax: 265 - 781 812
FAO, 1999. State of the World's Forests - 1999. FAO, Rome.
Nyasulu, K.M. and Latham, J.A. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Programme of Action. Southern African Forestry Journal, No 179, June 1997.
Willson, John et al. 1998. Completion Report. 1992 - 1998 Tree Seed Centre Network Project. SADC Project No AAA 5.5 / CIDA Project No 050/15334. SADC/TSCN Internal Document.