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Sustainable management of Miombo woodlands

Food security, nutrition and wood energy

The Miombo woodland is a vast African dryland forest ecosystem covering close to 2.7 million km2 across southern Africa (Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The woodlands are characterized by the dominance of Brachystegia species, either alone or in association with Julbernardia and Isoberlinia species. It is estimated that the woodlands – through their numerous goods and services which include various non-wood forest products (NWFPs) (e.g. insects, mushrooms, fruits, tubers, medicine, fodder, honey, seeds) and woodfuels, which, for simplicity, will be referred to as non-timber forest products, or NTFPs, throughout the publication – sustain the livelihoods of more than 100 million rural poor and 50 million urban people. The charcoal sector alone employs vast numbers of rural people and offers additional income to many poor rural families.

 Communities moreover rely directly on the woodlands for food and nutrition. NWFPs add vital micro- and macronutrients to local diets and contribute to diversified food systems, while woodfuel is essential for cooking and sterilizing, thus ensuring proper nutrient absorption and providing clean water for drinking. Forests and trees, if managed sustainably, are an important source of resilience for rural people in the Miombo woodlands, supporting households to absorb and recover from climatic or economic calamities and contributing to resolving the underlying causes of food insecurity, undernutrition and poverty by providing nutritious edible products and woodfuel for cooking in addition to conserving biodiversity and water resources, buffering extreme weather conditions and preventing land degradation and desertification. Generally speaking, it is now accepted that forests managed for both timber and NTFPs retain more biodiversity and resilience than forests managed solely for one aspect, e.g. timber and exotic timber plantations.

However, a growing population in high need of agricultural land and unsustainable use and overharvesting of natural resources in parts of the Miombo woodlands, combined with climate change impacts (e.g. drought, fires), leave insufficient time for many trees and associated species to regenerate naturally, posing a serious threat to the products and services of the woodlands, and to the livelihoods depending on them. Compounding the problem and hindering development of the Miombo ecosystem, are: i) lack of an enabling policy environment; ii) unsustainable management; iii) limited willingness and ability to pay for and access to energy-efficiency technologies; iv) inadequate awareness and information, including technical capacity; v) high poverty levels; and vi) limited access to microcredit facilities.

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Organization: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
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Year: 2018
ISBN: 978-92-5-130423-5
Country/ies: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Geographical coverage: Africa
Type: Report
Content language: English
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