11 March 2003, Rome -- "In the absence of fundamental changes, the forestry situation in Africa will be marked by continued high losses of forest cover, deterioration in the state of the environment, and depletion of non-wood forest products in general and medicinal plants in particular," according to a new FAO report released today.

The report, entitled Forestry Outlook Study for Africa (FOSA), outlines measures necessary to bring about significant improvement in the situation.

Presented by FAO at the sixteenth session of the Organization's Committee on Forestry (Rome, 10-14 March), FOSA provides a 20-year perspective and long-term planning framework for the development of the forestry sector in Africa. It includes an overview and five subregional reports (North, East, Southern, Central and West Africa).

According to the report, the situation in Africa in 2020, when the population will have increased from 798 million to 1,186 million - half of it living in urban areas - is likely to have the following characteristics:
  • loss in forest cover will continue, while progress in achieving sustainable forest management will be slow;
  • illegal logging will remain a major problem and Africa will not be in a position to produce wood competitively;
  • wood will continue to be the main source of energy, with food fuel consumption expected to increase to about 850 million m in 2020 (as compared to 635 million m in 2000), while increased urban demand for charcoal will result in further degradation of forests;
  • effective resolution of land use conflicts will be critical in taking full advantage of the potentials of wildlife;
  • loss of biodiversity, land degradation and deterioration of watersheds will remain critical problems.
What needs to be done

FOSA suggests the need to adopt new approaches to forestry in Africa. It outlines "priorities and strategies for enhancing the contribution of forestry to the economic, social and environmental interests of Africa".

According to the FAO report, "poverty alleviation and environmental protection will remain the most important priorities over the next two decades". In this respect, empowering key stakeholders through policy and institutional changes and creating conditions to support sustainable resource management would be the main thrust of strategies in most countries.

Particular areas with potential for positive change include:
  • revitalising the public sector;
  • making markets work for poor people;
  • enhancing the efficiency of the informal sector through legal and institutional frameworks and better access to information.


Contact:
Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473