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Work of FAO

Intergovernmental conference on timber trends and prospects in Africa
Silva Mediterranea

Intergovernmental conference on timber trends and prospects in Africa

An Intergovernmental Conference on Timber Trends and Prospects in Africa was called by FAO at Nairobi from 27 September to 2 October 1965, at the invitation of the Government of Kenya. The meeting was arranged in lieu of a second session of the African Forestry Commission which, because of difficulties of a political nature, could not take place.

Delegates and advisors participated from 16 member countries: Burundi, Congo (Leopoldville), Dahomey, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Spain, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom and Zambia. Representatives of the United Nations and its Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the International Labour Organisation, the East African Common Services Organization and the East African Agriculture and Forestry Research Organization also attended. Chief Akin Deko, FAO Regional Representative for Africa, represented the Director-General, and Jack C. Westoby the Forestry and Forest Products Division.

The following officers were elected: chairman, Jan Mohamed (Kenya); vice-chairmen, C. F. A. Onochie (Nigeria), M. D. Yandjou (Dahomey), G. J. Kileo (Tanzania). K. F. S. King (FAO technical adviser to Nigerian delegation) and R. Catinot (France) were appointed rapporteurs.

Regional timber trends study

The main item of business of the conference was to review the study Timber trends and prospects in Africa prepared jointly by FAO and ECA and eventually to be published. For the first time as regards the African region, this study attempts to bring together details of current domestic consumption of individual wood products, gathered on a country-by-country basis, and to project to the year 1975 the likely demand for these products by groups of countries, subregions, and for Africa as a whole. The study also reviews the position in each subregion as regards forest resources, primary wood-using industries and trade in wood products, and discusses prospects and problems of development.

Delegates laid stress on the uncertain interplay of the various factors of supply and demand in the region, and their possible influence on future domestic requirements for wood products. Changes in the price of wood products, relative to other prices, would affect the level of consumption, partly by encouraging the substitution of one wood product by another, of wood products by nonwood products, and of the latter by wood products. The production of plantation timber in appropriate geographical locations could lead to a significant reduction in sawn-timber prices but, on the other hand, the indigenous timber species might rise in price as a result of shortages in the more accessible localities and of increasing costs of transport from the more remote areas. Shifts in the price of wood products in the various countries and localities might not follow uniform patterns. Any departure from the assumption of constant prices would of course have proved unmanageable for the purposes of the present regional analysis. The conference felt, however, that any subsequent studies of a more limited geographic scope should attempt to correlate possible changes in prices with future consumption trends.

Unforeseen technological advances might also bring about changes in the pattern of demand, and such changes would certainly affect to some degree the projections given in the study.

Considerations in forestry development

The conference discussed the desirability of breaking down FAO statistics of forest areas so as to give an indication of the size of exploitable areas. A considerable proportion of the area classified in Africa as forest had already been degraded to the stage where it had little or no economic value, while other large portions of the African forest would not be developed within the coming decade or two because of lack of access facilities or the absence of marketable species. It was, however, recognized that the concept of exploitable areas was itself a changing one.

In regard to the nature of the demands likely to be placed upon countries of the region as a result of growing domestic consumption of wood products and of increasing export-trade opportunities, it was felt that, in the wood-rich countries, expansion of production would depend on investment in infrastructural development while, in the countries less well endowed with forest, investment would need to be in plantations. As far as export trade was concerned, there should be agradual shift toward trade in processed wood rather than logs, better gearing of production and trade to freight technology, and more intensive market promotion of currently underutilized species.

Several delegates pointed out that substitutes for domestically available wood (such as steel sleepers) were frequently imported from outside the region, adversely affecting balance of payments. Governments should more actively promote the use of local forest products where this would limit import costs. Improved seasoning and preservation would go a long way toward overcoming some of the existing prejudices that impeded a wider use of local sawnwood.

The expansion of manufacture of pulp and paper to meet growing requirements within the region and, in some cases, to supply markets overseas, would call for heavy investment considerably heavier than in the case of other industries based on wood. The development of pulp and paper manufacture would therefore hinge to a large extent on the existence of a favorable investment climate, an adequate evaluation of individual projects, and on the securing of long-term finance from international and regional banking institutions and other sources.

These were views already put forward by the FAO/ECA Conference on Pulp and Paper Development in Africa and the Near East, held in Cairo earlier in 1965, and the present conference, while acknowledging that long-term prospects for the export of pulp products seemed to be promising, warned that any country planning to enter the export field in the near future should carry out a very careful evaluation of market prospects before embarking on any large investment program.

Some particular points

Delegates of member countries in eastern and central Africa considered that, in the light of the national reports and documentation submitted to this conference, opportunity ought to be provided for a regular exchange of information between their countries on matters of common interest, including plans for forest and forest industries development, production and marketing trends, and research. The Director-General of FAO was invited to explore this matter further.

The role that the forest, or more precisely its wildlife potential, can play in tourism and recreation is becoming increasingly important for Africa. Countries want to expand tourism from overseas, and to provide recreation facilities against a background of increasing urbanization and industrialization.

The conference considered various institutional problems in the context of forestry development; for instance, forest legislation, land tenure and customary rights as factors conditioning the possibilities of action. It examined the action methods that forest departments can adopt in encouraging the adjustments and institutional changes necessary for carrying out development policies. It also examined questions of administrative structures, taxation, co-operatives, concessions, exploitation permits, credit facilities, and standardization of products.

Concern was expressed over the lack of trained subprofessional staffs in countries of the region. In this connection, the conference commended FAO for organizing a seminar at Abidjan in October 1965 for directors of forestry schools of intermediate level.

Noting that the International Labour Organisation had already initiated a study on the influence of the changing pattern of forestry on forest labor, and was actively interested in the factors of forestry employment, the conference also recommended that governments should approach ILO for assistance in organizing labor studies and vocational training.

The African countries represented at the Nairobi conference are at varying stages of development, and no uniform action program for the forestry sector would be appropriate to all of them. The delegates fully acknowledged the need to formulate and keep under constant review national forestry programs, taking into account expected developments in demand and supply of forest products. Programs must also take into account the environmental and social functions of the forest, as well as the requirements of other sectors of national economies.

Silva Mediterranea

Delegations from Cyprus, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Yugoslavia attended the ninth session of the FAO Subcommission on Mediterranean Forestry Problems in Athens from 23 to 26 June 1965, under the chairmanship of J. de Vaissière (France). The International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the Technical Assistance Board of the United Nations were also represented. A. Métro, Chief of the Forest Production Branch, Forestry and Forest Products Division, represented the Director-General of FAO

The main policy discussions at the meeting were on the place of the forest in land use in Mediterranean countries. Reports presented by member countries all tended to reveal the following as general trends: acceleration of the rural exodus; rapid development of the tourist industry and outdoor recreation needs; extension of areas available to forestry as the result of the abandonment of lands marginal for agriculture and improvements in permanent pastures; increase in tree plantations outside the forest, particularly of privatelyplanted poplar stands.

Considerable progress became evident in the course of discussion, in regard to the co-ordination of forestry research in Mediterranean countries. Several of the projects earlier recommended by the subcommission through its Research Committee had already been put into operation by the participating research institutes, either in individual countries or on a group-country basis. The subcommission expressed appreciation of the effort made by the Tunisian Government to collect eucalypt seed, in co-operation with the Australian Government and through help from FAO and the United Nations Special Fund. It also acknowledged with appreciation the work on the influence of eucalypts on soils carried out by institutes that were members of IUFRO.

The subcommission took note of the establishment of a European Confederation on Cork (CEDULI) but considered that the terms of reference of this association did not provide a reason for discontinuing the activities of its own Working Party on Cork Oak.

Mr. de Vaissière presented to the subcommission his study, Elements of forest policy, which mainly deals with methods of financing forestry development in the context of general economic development. Urging again the need to establish a methodology for evaluating quantitatively the "indirect benefits" of the forest, the subcommission commended the study to the further attention of the European Forestry Commission.

This was the last scission of Silva Mediterranea to be held under the chairmanship of Mr. de Vaissière who for the last five years has presided over the activities of the subcommission with imaginative and dedicated leadership. The subcommission reluctantly agreed that, owing to new responsibilities in his national administration, his associations with Mediterranean forestry could no longer be so close.

The following were elected to remain in office until the end of the tenth session: chairman, P. Margaropoulos (Greece), vice-chairmen, S. Sanchez-Herrera, (Spain), A. Polycarpou (Cyprus) and M. Badra (Tunisia). The subcommission agreed on a future program of work; deciding firmly against the formation of any new subsidiary bodies, it decided that at future sessions more: emphasis should be given to technical problems. The main topic selected for the next session concerned the possibilities and limitations of quick-growing conifers in afforestation programs.

Warsaw forest research institute - 35th anniversary

On 14-16 October 1965 the Forest Research Institute in Warsaw held a special scientific session on the occasion of its 35th anniversary. The opening address was given by the Minister of Forestry and Forest Industries and the program included visits to field stations and experimental centers, and film shows on the activities of the Institute.

The need for a forest research organization in Poland was recognized officially in 1919 - a year after the country had regained political independence at the end of the first world war. At that time, the Central Administration of State Domains established a forest experimental section. In 1924, the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture organized a Commission for Forestry Research, whose task was to organize research in close co-operation with forestry faculties of the universities and using their facilities. This solution was soon found to be inadequate as the personnel available could not handle all the research required. The General Directorate of State Forests therefore established a Forestry Research Division with headquarters in Warsaw, and this was finally extended and reorganized as the State Forest Research Institute: in 1934.

The second world war caused a five-year interruption of the activities of the institute. It was reactivated in late 1944 but the organization of research had to, be started from scratch as many of the former staff never returned from the war and equipment and records had disappeared.

The new organization was established under the name of the Forest Research Institute (Instytut Badawczy Lesnictwa, Warszawa, ul. W. Kostrzewy 3), with headquarters in Warsaw. Since 1947, the institute has undertaken the research required to serve all the national forests. By 1948, there were already 22 research centers grouped into 7 major divisions, with 2 out-posted divisions and 3 field stations. The creation of a Wood Technology Institute in Poznan in 1952 relieved the institute of part of its responsibilities, allowing it, to concentrate entirely on forestry problems.

The institute co-operates actively with the Forestry Committee of the Polish Academy of Science, as well as with the forestry departments of three universities.

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