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Pierre Sigaud2 and Joel Luhanga3

The SADC Sub-Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources was held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 5 to 9 June 2000. National experts from 9 countries and territories attended, as well as representatives from international, regional, bi-lateral and national agencies. The objective of the workshop was to assist countries in Eastern and Southern Africa to assess the status of their forest genetic resources and to discuss the options for a regional plan of action. During the workshop, participants presented reports on the status of forest and tree genetic resources and discussed the main constraints in the sub-region. Based on the discussions, priority tree species, and common issues amenable to regional cooperation, were identified, and recommendations made for follow-up and implementation.

The SADC Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources was held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 5 to 9 June 2000. This meeting is part of a series of workshops facilitated by FAO and other agencies to assist countries in the preparation of regional action plans on forest and tree genetic resources, following recommendations of the 13th Session of the Committee on Forestry (March 1997). The meeting, the first of its kind in the region, was organized by the Forestry Sector Technical Coordination Unit (FSTCU) of SADC. Invitations to the workshop had been sent to SADC member countries, to international, regional and bilateral organizations interested in the field of forest genetic resources, and to resource persons.

The major workshop sponsors and collaborators were the FAO Forestry Department, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and IPGRI's Sub-Saharan Programme on Forest Genetic Resources (SAFORGEN), the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre, and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). Strong logistical support was provided by the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania, and the FAO coordinated UNDP/GEF East African Cross Borders Biodiversity Project.

The meeting was attended by 22 participants from 9 countries (Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and international, regional or national organizations (FAO, ICRAF, IPGRI, IUFRO-SPDC, SADC-PGRC and UNEP). Apologies had been received from the Secretariat of the CBD, CIFOR, DFID, DFSC, IUCN and SIDA. Partial attendance was made by officers from local and national authorities and projects.

National experts gave summary accounts of country reports prepared beforehand on the status of forest genetic resources. Their reports demonstrated significant differences among countries and underlined the diversity of values and functions traditionally attached to forest trees and shrubs. While some countries still have a high rate of forest cover, several participants stressed that heavy pressures on forests and woodlands were leading to an overall loss of biological diversity and forest genetic resources in the region. In some countries, there was a clear and urgent need for conservation measures targeting particular tree species. In addition to technical considerations, strengthening national capacities and addressing policy issues were reported as crucial factors in planning and implementing forest genetic conservation plans. A wide range of issues common to several countries, and opportunities for exchange of experience and know-how, were identified.

Five thematic areas were proposed for discussions and incorporation in a regional action plan, viz prioritization of species and operational needs; ways to support sustainable utilization and management of forest and tree resources; issues related to germplasm exchange and access; institutional strengthening and training; and identifications of mechanisms for regional cooperation.

The relevance of a species approach, suggested as an entry point of the action plan, was debated and endorsed. It was recognized that such a strategy, based on utilitarian approach to defining priority species and tree populations, could help focus discussions on operational needs and requirements. In addition, it complemented other conservation strategies targeting ecosystems presently being addressed in other fora and programmes. A presentation was made of the SECOSUD regional programme coordinated by SADC, supporting national herbaria and plant collections.

Based on information provided by participants or gathered from country reports prepared beforehand, ten priority native species were identified for each of the following groups: (i) mainland countries and (ii) island countries (Mauritius). Only one species was found of common high concern to all mainland countries (Pterocarpus angolensis), reflecting the wide diversity of ecological conditions and forest types in the SADC area. Nine species were identified as top priority in at least two countries (Afzelia quanzensis, Baikiaea plurijuga, Colophospermum mopane, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Faidherbia albida, Khaya anthotheca, Milicia excelsa, Sclerocarya birrea and Warburgia salutaris). Pines and eucalypts were reported as the most important introduced genera in all countries, with cypress species widely planted at higher altitudes and casuarina plantations established along the sea shores. The lists were validated and complemented, for each species, by a scoring of technical activities most urgently needed (including exploration and collection of germplasm, evaluation, improvement, conservation in situ or ex situ). Managers of the FAO/UNDP/GEF project then briefed participants on the objectives and ways of functioning of the project and outlined criteria for GEF assistance in biodiversity-related projects.

In a following session, participants considered aspects related to sustainable use and management of forest and trees. A field visit to Mt Meru Forestry District illustrated changes in forest policies and their application at stand level. While management systems are being revised to identify and incorporate non-commercial considerations, efforts are also underway towards a better interaction with neighbouring human communities and a range of stakeholders. Participants debated the need for a multidisciplinary approach and a better integration of forest genetic resources considerations in wider frameworks such as biodiversity action plans and national forest programmes. The involvement of local communities in the decision-making processes regarding the protection and conservation of forest trees, complementing existing regulatory systems, was emphasized. Participants recognized the compatibility of genetic conservation (including in situ and ex situ techniques) and sustainable use of forests and trees. Considering the variety of forest types and conditions in the region, specific strategies and coordination actions for priority tree species should vary according to each species and its geographical coverage, from regional collaboration projects to national or local undertakings. Presentations by IPGRI and ICRAF illustrated the research aspects underpinning such strategies and programmes. Participants were also informed about ex situ conservation of forest tree germplasm undertaken by the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre.

A sub-session considered the complexity of the issues relating to access and exchange of germplasm, both within countries and among countries, through several viewpoints and a case study (the International Neem Network). In addition to legal considerations, issues regarding sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources, quarantine and plant protection regulations and provisions to guard against invasive species, were presented and debated. CGIAR centres and CSIRO have developed practical procedures and models for Material Transfer Agreements (MTA). The Organization of African Unity and the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre are developing framework approaches to the issue. It was recommended that information available be provided to FSTCU, and that opportunities for developing regional agreements on access to and transfer of forest genetic resources, based on mutually agreed terms, and compatible with national laws, be explored.

The following discussions related to institutional strengthening and training, and regional cooperation. At country level, a number of institutions are involved in forest genetic resources, while coordination of policies and consistency of efforts are not always ensured. A need for increased information exchange and interactions among partners was identified. In addition, national and regional capacities should be strengthened by an appropriate balance of university training and "hands-on" sharing of technical skills and experience. Considering the number of research organizations involved in the issues of forest genetic resources in the region, participants emphasized the importance of sharing experiences, skills and information through formal networking and linkage instruments. On policy matters, participants recognized the need to raise awareness at all levels on the importance of forestry issues in general, and forest genetic resources conservation and management in particular. At operational level, a number of collaborative mechanisms, projects and initiatives on forestry, forest conservation and forest genetic resources already available in the region were presented (IUFRO-SPDC, SADC/FSTCU, SAFORGEN). Participants recognized that such efforts should be continued and encouraged, and proposed to enhance SAFORGEN's action in the region through contractual agreements with FSTCU.

The last part of the workshop was devoted to summarizing issues and recommended actions along thematic technical areas, and to compiling them into a draft action plan based on the conclusions of chairs and rapporteurs. Technical areas where specific actions were identified include (i) exploration and collection of germplasm; (ii) evaluation, tree improvement and seed supply; and (iii) conservation in situ and ex situ. It was agreed that the detailed elements of the plan of action would be completed later by FSTCU and FAO, in close collaboration with rapporteurs, and circulated to all participants prior to publication.

The workshop provided a forum for discussion of key issues related to forest genetic resources in the SADC region. The participants recognized the need for, and agreed to develop, a regional action plan for the conservation and sustainable use of forest and tree genetic resources in SADC countries. A draft action plan based on the workshop discussions will be circulated to participants, after the proceedings have been finalized by FSTCU. The plan will be complemented by a synthesis of the status of forest genetic resources in Eastern and Southern Africa, based on data available in country reports. It is expected that the regional synthesis will also incorporate information not yet available, from Angola and South Africa. The synthesis and the action plan will be widely disseminated to institutions and organizations inside and outside of the region.

Information on the workshop and its outputs and documentation will be provided to other fora and meetings, including the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission. It is considered to make information available on line through the FSTCU homepage, with cross-references to the FAO world-wide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN) homepage, and the Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

CBD: Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Canada
CGIAR: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Washington, USA
CIFOR: Centre for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia
CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia
DFID: British Department for International Development, London, UK
DFSC: DANIDA Forest Seed Centre, Humlebaek, Denmark
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy
FBD: Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
FSTCU: Forestry Sector Technical Coordination Unit of SADC, Lilongwe, Malawi
GEF: Global Environment Facility, Washington, USA
IPGRI: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy
IUCN: World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland
IUFRO: International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, Wien, Austria
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization
SADC: Southern African Development Community
SAFORGEN: Sub-Saharan Forest Genetic Resources Programme, Cotonou, Benin
SPDC: Special Programme for Developing Countries (IUFRO), Wien, Austria
SIDA: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Stockholm, Sweden
UNDP: United Nations Development Programme, New York, USA
UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya

1. Received July 2000. Original language: English
2. Forestry Officer, Forestry Department, FAO, Rome
3. Senior Forestry Officer, SADC/FSTCU, Ministry of Forestry, Lilongwe, Malawi

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