Rome, Italy, 1-5 March 1999
PARTICULAR FORESTRY ISSUES AND ACTIVITIES OF INTEREST TO SMALL ISLAND
1. A Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States
(SIDS) will be held at FAO Headquarters on 12 March 1999. The purpose of
the Conference is to identify emerging critical issues concerning agriculture
and sustainable development in SIDS, taking into consideration the latest
developments in social and economic areas, trade and the environment at
both national and international levels. The objective is to develop a plan
for the sustainable development of SIDS, as a follow-up to the World Food
Summit. Three background papers and a draft Plan of Action have been prepared
by FAO for this meeting.1
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF SIDS AND THEIR FOREST
2. There is no internationally accepted definition of a small island developing
state. However, small island states were given an international political
identity with the establishment in 1991 of the Alliance of Small Island
States (AOSIS). For the purposes of this document, SIDS are taken to comprise
the 42 members and observers of AOSIS (including four low-lying coastal
states), with the addition of three states which are members of FAO, but
not of AOSIS (Bahrain, the Dominican Republic and Haiti). Ten of these
states have `least developed country' status within the UN System.
3. As a group, SIDS are well endowed with forests. However, due to the
considerable variation in land area,2 population
density and climatic, geological and topographic conditions, the extent
of forest cover varies greatly among island States. In 1995, forests covered
from 74 to 85 percent of the total land area in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon
Islands and Vanuatu, under 10 percent in many of the smaller island States
and less than 1 percent in Haiti.
4. Island States with a land area of less than 50 km2 had a combined
forest cover estimated at 35.4 percent of total land area in 1995, as compared
to the world average of 26.5 percent. On the other hand, the annual deforestation
rate from 1990 to 1995 in these island States (0.9 percent per annum)
is three times the world average. The highest rates of annual deforestation,
ranging from 2.6 to 7.2 percent, were found in Caribbean islands (notably
Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Haiti and the Bahamas) and in the Comoros. The main
causes of deforestation include conversion of forested land for agricultural
use and infrastructure development. The Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga
are among countries with high rates of forest degradation due to heavy
exploitation of timber resources. Forest degradation due to natural causes
(e.g. cyclones and forest fires) is also common in some SIDS.
5. Cape Verde is the only Small Island Developing State that registered
a positive change in forest cover from 1990 to 1995, as a result of afforestation
6. Forests and trees contribute directly to food security by providing
the following forest products:
A. THE ROLE OF FORESTS AND TREES IN IMPROVING
7. Income and employment provided by forestry and forest-related activities
give people in rural communities the opportunity to purchase food and other
basic necessities. Forested watersheds provide soil and water conservation,
benefiting downstream agricultural areas. Windbreaks and shelterbelts provide
shade and shelter for agricultural crops and animals and reduce soil erosion.
Mangroves and other coastal forests protect coastal areas against the effects
of strong winds, storm surges and salt spray, and provide nutrients for
the marine food web. Forests also act as reservoirs of biological diversity;
many of the foods consumed today originated as wild crops in forests4
and genetic improvement of agricultural crops has much to gain from existing
Edible plant products: Staples, supplementary foods, occasional
snacks or famine foods are critical to the nutritional well being of many
Edible animals and animal products: Deer, rodents, fish, birds,
insects, honey, eggs and birds' nests.
Medicine: For 75 to 90 percent of the people in developing countries,
natural products represent the only source of medicine.
Woodfuel: Essential to cooking and food preservation (e.g. smoking
and drying of fish and meat), fuelwood and charcoal account for more than
80 percent of the energy used in developing countries.
Fencing: Whether live or built from woody material, fencing supports
food security by keeping out unwanted animals.
Implements and tools: Agricultural implements, food containers,
boats and canoes, and hunting and fishing gear are made from wood and non-wood
8. Fifteen AOSIS members list timber or hardwood forests as one of their
main natural resources. Of these, Fiji, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Samoa,
Solomon Islands, Suriname and Vanuatu report wood processing as one of
their main industries. Papua New Guinea is by far the largest SIDS producer
and exporter of industrial roundwood and is the world's second largest
exporter of tropical hardwood logs. In spite of its limited size, the Solomon
Islands is the world's sixth largest exporter of tropical hardwood logs.
Other major producers of industrial roundwood include Fiji and Samoa. Some
concern has been expressed that the current level of wood production in
Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga may not be sustainable.
B. PRODUCTION, TRADE AND CONSUMPTION OF
9. Conversely, many of the smaller States and territories in the South
Pacific and all of the States in the Caribbean (except Cuba) are net importers
of sawnwood and wood-based panels and paper. Countries which rely on imports
for fuelwood and charcoal and/or industrial roundwood include Bahrain,
Cyprus, Malta and Mauritius and some of the smaller States in the South
10. Trees outside forests (such as on agricultural land) are often of
very significant local value in SIDS with limited forest cover. For example,
in many small-island nations, coconut trees serve as a major source of
building materials, coconuts, copra and coconut oil.
11. Due to a high ratio of coastline to land area and relatively short
distances between the uplands and the coastal areas, the following environmental
functions of forests and trees are of special importance, and in many cases
outweigh their production value:
C. ENVIRONMENTAL FUNCTIONS OF FORESTS AND
12. Tourism is one of the most important income-earning industries in many
SIDS, and interest in eco- or nature-based tourism is increasing. Although
forests on these islands are rarely the primary attraction for visitors,
they have a great potential to complement dive sites and other primary
attractions. Pohnpei (in the Federated States of Micronesia), Dominica,
Jamaica and St. Lucia are among the island States that have made efforts
to develop the tourist potential of their forest areas. By maintaining
the health of coral reefs, which, in turn, protect beaches from sand erosion,
coastal forests play an indirect but critical role in the tourism industry
in some island nations.
Soil and water conservation: The relatively limited size of watersheds
makes soil and water conservation a priority in SIDS. The soil improvement
role of these trees is also important to the success of plant growth in
coral-based soils, which are among the least fertile in the world.
Coastal protection: Coastal forests act as buffers against cyclones,
strong winds and storm surges, which are common in many tropical islands.
Conservation of biological diversity: Small islands generally
have lower plant and animal species diversity, but a higher percentage
of endemism than continental masses5. Many of these
endemic plant and animal species are found in forests. The small size of
individual plant and animal populations renders them more susceptible to
extinction brought on by deforestation, unsustainable forestry and agricultural
practices, unmanaged tourism and the introduction of exotic species. The
conservation of biological diversity - both directly (in the forest) and
indirectly (by protecting associated ecosystems such as coral reefs) -
is therefore one of the most important environmental roles played by forests
in small islands.
Links with marine ecosystem: Coastal forests such as mangroves and
tidal forests produce leaf litter and detrital matter, which enters the
marine food web. Mangroves serve as feeding, breeding and nursery grounds
for numerous commercial fish and shellfish - including most commercial
tropical shrimps. In addition, mangrove forests act as a sediment trap
for upland run-off, thereby reducing water turbidity and protecting sea
grass beds, nearshore coral reefs and shipping lanes from siltation.
13. These many and important roles of trees and forests in small islands
call for a holistic and integrated approach to forest conservation and
development, which takes into account not only the direct benefits obtainable
from the forests but also their links with associated natural ecosystems
and other economic sectors.
E. THE NEED FOR AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
TO FOREST CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT
III. MAJOR CONSTRAINTS FOR SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT
14. Small-Island Developing States vary enormously according to distinct
geographic, biological, social, cultural and economic characteristics,
but face similar constraints to the sustainable use of forest resources.
15. Finally, the long timeframe needed for forestry development increases
the risks of changes in demand and/or legal provisions (e.g. land tenure),
as well as the risk of failure due to natural calamities, pests and diseases.
This can be a major disincentive to tree planting and sustainable forest
management by the private sector.
Limited land area and natural resources6:
This intensifies competition among alternative land use options. The
relatively limited size of watersheds makes soil and water conservation
Vulnerability to environmental disasters: With few exceptions, these
nations are susceptible to cyclones, storm surges, volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, forest fires, landslides, extended droughts and extensive
floods.7 Since damage often occurs on a national
scale, a single disaster can cripple an island's infrastructure and economy.
SIDS also face the long-term threat of rising sea levels associated with
global climate change.
High species endemism but low occurrence of individual species leads
to high risk for loss of biological diversity: The small land area
of many SIDS makes it difficult to set aside large areas for strict protection
purposes. There is a particular need to develop suitable strategies for
conservation of biological diversity, including the conservation of genetic
resources of a number of socio-economically important tree species which
are endangered in part or all of their natural range in the South Pacific.
High human population density, usually concentrated in lowland areas,
increases pressure on already limited resources.
Economic constraints due to relatively small scale: This
results in high costs for public administration and infrastructure; small
internal markets; limited export volumes (sometimes from remote locations)
which lead to high freight costs and reduced competitiveness; and difficulties
in establishing competitive forest processing industries.
Institutional constraints: National forest agencies have limited
material, financial and human resources; forest policies are in need of
updating; reliable information is unavailable on forest resources and the
value of their productive and protective functions; in some countries,
tenure systems result in fragmentation of ownership rights; and high levels
of migration, particularly of skilled human resources.
Lack of integrated land use planning: Only few SIDS have well-defined
and executed land use plans.
Unsustainable forest management practices: Overexploitation of commercial
timber resources, inappropriate harvesting practices, forest industries
running below capacity, and the use of inferior planting material due to
lack of access to seed of high genetic and physiological quality.
IV. RECENT FAO-SUPPORTED FORESTRY ACTIVITIES IN SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING
16. The following activities have been undertaken or are planned:
A Technical Consultation on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry
and Fisheries for South Pacific Small-Island Developing States was held
in Apia, Samoa (May 1996).
Technical and financial assistance were provided in support of a "Working
Group on Agroforesty for the Pacific". The agroforestry information toolkit,
prepared at a regional participatory workshop in Fiji (1997), targets extension-level
A TCP was successfully implemented in the Seychelles in 1997 to address
the dieback of Takamaka (Colophyllum inophyllum var. takamaka),
an economically important tree species.
The recently completed Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study includes
a regional study of the South Pacific.
FAO and UNDP convened a regional meeting in Barbados (September 1997) to
discuss strategies for supporting the establishment of National Forestry
Policies in Caribbean SIDS. This was followed by an expert consultation
in Trinidad (1998) and a training course on forest policy held in the Dominican
As a follow-up to previous FAO assistance, a three-year UNDP/AusAID
funded Pacific Islands Forests and Tree Support Programme (PIT&TSP)
is currently assisting the 22 Pacific Island countries in strengthening
national and community capacities in the conservation and sustainable development
of forest and tree resources.
A sub-regional workshop on the conservation, management, sustainable utilization
and enhancement of forest genetic resources in the South Pacific is scheduled
for April 1999 in Apia, Samoa. This workshop is being organised by the
AusAID-funded South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources
(SPRIG) in collaboration with FAO, the South Pacific Regional Environment
Programme and the PIT&TSP above. The expected outcome is a sub-regional
Action Plan for Forest and Tree Genetic Resources.
Activities are currently ongoing within the FAO Forest Resources Assessment
Programme to collect information on forest resources in all countries,
including SIDS, for presentation in 2000.
The European Commission and FAO have recently launched a three-year programme
to improve the quality and reliability of forestry data. The programme
will strengthen the capacity of selected ACP countries in Africa and the
Caribbean to gather and analyse key data, refine the methodology to collect
information not previously recorded (e.g. on trees outside forests, fuelwood
and non-wood forest products) and produce better assessments of likely
developments in the forestry sector. Several SIDS are included in this
project, and a workshop for the countries of the Caribbean is planned for
The FAO Forest Assessment Resources Program is currently negotiating its
involvement with the USDA Forest Service, US EROS Data Center and the Nature
Conservancy to cooperatively carry out the mapping of forest resources
of all Caribbean Islands.
FAO assistance has been requested for a Regional Watershed Management Project
for the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The Government of Fiji has
also requested FAO assistance with a review of returns from forests and
forest products harvesting, processing and marketing to resource owners
and the Government.
V. PROPOSED PLAN OF ACTION
17. A draft Plan of Action for ensuring sustainable management of land,
water and forestry resources and environmental protection of SIDS has been
formulated for discussion at the Ministerial Conference. The Plan comprises
the following five main areas of actions:
18. The main forestry-related objectives and activities of the proposed
plan of action are presented below.
1. Adjusting to changes in the global trading environment
2. Towards a more intensified, diversified and sustainable agriculture
3. Meeting fisheries needs
4. Ensuring sustainable management of land, water and forestry resources
and environmental protection
5. Capacity building and institutional strengthening.
Objective 4.1: To promote the conservation and sustainable use of
land and water resources and manage sustainably the forest resources
(a) Promote the adoption and implementation of an integrated land use
planning approach, which take into consideration the linkages and interactions
between the various ecosystems and economic sectors.
(b) Promote rehabilitation and conservation of forestlands and watersheds
and, where necessary and sustainable, upgrade the productive capacity of
these resources and ensure sustainable forest management and sound harvesting
(c) Combat land degradation and enhance coastal protection through,
inter alia, intensified soil conservation, afforestation and reforestation
(d) Promote agroforestry systems and the development of multipurpose
tree species which are resistant to pest, diseases and cyclones.
(e) Pursue integrated planning of both terrestrial and marine environments
to prevent their degradation and to soundly utilize the full potential
of the natural resource base, particularly for eco-tourism.
Objective 4.2: To enhance the environmental protection
(a) Strengthen the information basis for environmental monitoring and
integrate environmental values and concerns into the development process.
(c) Enforce, ratify or conclude, as appropriate, international conventions,
such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on
Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
and the Kyoto Protocol; if required, adopt national legislation to implement
Objective 4.3: To improve disaster preparedness
(a) Minimize the vulnerability to and impact of natural hazards, climate
fluctuations, forest fires, pests and diseases through the formulation
of disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies.
(c) Undertake efforts to protect mangrove areas which provide protection
against tidal surges and to storm damage.
Objective 5.1: To develop and/or strengthen national capacities in
the context of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture
(b) Build up national policy formulation capacity in agricultural, forestry,
and fisheries sectors and adequate analytical capacity to assess the impact
of policy changes being proposed at WTO.
Objective 5.2: To strengthen the supporting services to agriculture
(c) Improve the availability and accessibility of credit which is critical
to promoting non-traditional commodities.
(e) Strengthen national forest agencies and improve coordination among
national forestry and related agencies in their work and in relation to
foreign funded assistance programmes.
Objective 5.3: To provide a coherent framework for sustainable natural
resource management and environmental protection
(a) Provide and/or ensure implementation of appropriate legislation
on environmental protection and natural resource management, including
land, water and forest resources, plant protection and animal health, climate
change, desertification, biodiversity, wildlife and genetic resources,
protected areas and critical habitats, integrated coastal area management
, and preservation of the marine environment, and the conservation and
management of fisheries within areas under national jurisdiction and, where
appropriate, on the high seas.
(b) Promote integrated approaches to natural resources management, in
order to mitigate adverse inter-sectoral impacts.
(c) Integrate national forest policies into a larger natural resources
management framework at national level.
(d) Discourage unsustainable agricultural practices, uncontrolled deforestation,
destructive fishing practices and overfishing.
(e) Elaborate measures to mitigate biodiversity losses.
(f) Establish, as appropriate, relevant databases, information systems
and support regional collaboration, including inter-island information
and technology sharing.
19. The indicative total cost estimate for the implementation of the
Plan is US$180 million, of which the domestic private and public sectors
would provide about 50 percent and 20 percent, respectively. The balance
would be made up by the international community on grant and concessional