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Developments in and ideas about moist tropical forest management in Africa

The quest for natural forest management in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire end Liberia 1995. M.P.E. Parren and N.R. de Graaf Tropenbos Series No. 13. Wageningen, the Netherlands, Tropenbos Foundation

With this "quest" for natural forest management in the Upper Guinea moist forest zone, Prof. N.R. de Graaf once again draws on his experience and extensive expertise to portray the development of natural forest management in this region in a highly interesting historical, biological and silvicultural perspective. The person who made the CELOS silvicultural system work in Suriname and Mr M.P.E. Parren, who thoroughly observed and documented the state of the forests in these three West African countries, deserve to be heard. This book is not intended as a textbook on tropical silviculture, but is a survey of the state of the art as it is today of the experiences gained in the management of the natural humid forests of West Africa. The book concentrates on the three most important timber-producing countries of the Upper Guinea tropical moist forest region: Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia.

In a well-documented way, the authors reveal that the earliest colonial interest in forest products had been in non-timber products but that attention was later focused on large valuable logs. Scant attention was paid to the sustained production of this commodity in those early times, although forest areas had been reserved on a local basis in the early colonial period.

The West African moist forests, which are currently among the most depleted forest regions in the tropics, can be biologically characterized by various kinds of forest type ranging from per-humid to semi-dry, and are found along the decreasing rainfall gradient from the coast to some 300 km to a maximum 500 km inland. Regeneration processes in each of these forest types are discussed as well as the role of certain animals, particularly the forest elephant, as keystone species in forest renewal and the tree species composition.

Silviculture in forest management is treated by the authors in great detail, by analysing an impressive number of pilot projects in the three countries. The authors note that the emphasis which was formerly laid on timber-growing production of the forest is gradually changing for the better towards a more all-comprising view of the forest ecosystem and its management needs. Nevertheless, according to the authors, the production of large, commercial, timber-producing trees should still be regarded as being the mainstay of the whole forest management approach since, without such large commercial trees, the forest would have neither the ecological quality nor the economical attractiveness for long-term sustainability.

In describing and analysing the (mostly experimental) silvicultural systems in these three West African countries, the authors deliberately avoid presenting a single silvicultural or forest management approach as being the best for the region as such an approach has to be adapted to each specific situation and forest area. The authors claim that we are now at the point at which the knowledge acquired from the experiments will have to be translated into implementation on a larger scale. Hence the value of this review, as the book can be instrumental in the survival of the West African forest. It is a solid block of serious information, containing little or no speculation. Decision-makers in the field of land use, in general, and every forest officer, in particular, should be encouraged to read it. They will not learn how to solve their problems directly, but this book will contribute to their "quest" for the right strategies and paths for reaching the desirable future state of their forests based on a considered appraisal of what has happened in the past.

P. Vantomme
Forest Products Division

Considering the future of wood energy

Forests, fuels and the future, wood energy for sustainable development 1995 Forestry Topics Report No. 5. Rome, FAO.

Assisting governments, specialized agencies, NGOs and the private sector towards a more sustainable approach to production and use of forests, woodlands and trees is a major concern of FAO. Its Wood Energy Programme aims to assist all those interested in any aspect of wood energy, from fuelwood production, charcoal conversion, trade, markets and wood energy to conversion and conservation. It encourages efforts to modernize traditional wood energy use and promote new wood energy initiatives as a modern source of energy. The programme structured into five interrelated clusters: wood energy policy and institutions; wood energy resources development; wood energy conservation and substitution; opportunities in industry and commerce; mature and emerging bioenergy technologies; and trading and marketing of wood-based fuels.

Forestry Topics Report No. 5, Forests, fuels and the future: wood energy for sustainable development, discusses the changing trends in approaches to wood-based energy sources, it draws on examples from many developing countries which suggest viable ways to realize the development potential of wood energy without environmental or social drawbacks. It describes a changing role for wood energy in a changing world where fuelwood and wood-based fuels need no longer be associated with poverty or underdevelopment but could rank among viable options open to energy users everywhere.

The book considers the issues of wood energy in five main chapters focusing respectively on: key trends and issues; wood energy and livelihoods; economic development; environmental security; and technology transfer and energy transition. A concluding chapter outlines development approaches that could, in the view of FAO, help deliver the potential benefits of wood energy and overcome prevailing natural resource limitations and technical or institutional constraints.

Forests, fuels and the future, as with all Forestry Topics Reports, is produced in an easy-to-read style and illustrated format that make it accessible to a broad audience.

Latest reported data on tropical plantation resources

Forest resources assessment 1990 Tropical forest plantation resources. 1995. FAO Forestry Paper No 128. Rome, FAO.

Controlling tropical deforestation is a global forestry concern, while afforestation and reforestation constitute the main strategy to meet future demands for forest goods and services. Thus forest plantation programmes have expanded very rapidly in many countries of the tropics and e' subtropics Tropical forest plantation resources (FAO Forestry Paper No. 128) presents the best available information on the tropical plantation resource.

The study, implemented within the framework of FAO's Forest Resources Assessment 1990 project, and based on a systematic review of national forestry sector progress reports, contains estimates of the forest plantation resources of 88 tropical countries, as well as information on the forest plantations of six non-tropical developing countries and six industrialized countries. Information was also obtained from FAO, the World Bank, Oxford Forestry Institute (UK) and CIRAD Forêt (France) and numerous specialists in the field.

The study found that the reported area of forest plantations in 1990 was nearly 44 million ha, with an annual average reported increase during the decade 19811991 of 2.6 million ha. It was recognized, however, that reported areas were usually larger than actual areas and an estimate of 70 percent, the overall ratio between reported and net areas, was derived from survival rates quoted in 34 plantation inventories.

Starting with a chapter on concepts, definitions and methodology, the study moves on to global and regional overviews of tropical forest plantations, including total cumulative reported areas, average annual rate of increase, division into industrial and non-industrial purposes, and into the main species, estimated net areas and a discussion on community tree planting. Yields of the main species planted in large-scale plantations are also reviewed. A subsequent section discusses plantation evaluation: estimating net plantation; reviewing growth and yield data (actual and potential) of large-scale plantations; and other issues related to planning and management of plantations. A final chapter summarizes the study findings, draws conclusions and makes recommendations.

The information presented in this study, and the conclusions drawn, will help national and international policy-makers and planners to formulate sound forest plantation strategies. The study should also stimulate countries and national planting agencies to assume a holistic view in planning and implementing plantation programmes.

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