Enhancing Food Security through Non-wood Forest Products
in Central Africa
The importance of non-wood forest products in Central Africa
Tropical forests in Central Africa cover almost 235 million hectares and offer, beside commercial wood production, an enormous potential to increase rural wellbeing through the sustainable use of non-wood forest products (NWFP). NWFP are of major importance to forest dependent people for their subsistence needs as well as offering opportunities for trade through products such as foodstuff, medicinal and ornamental plants, fuel wood and charcoal, poles and posts, fishing equipment and various other goods.
Despite their importance and significant potential in the fight against poverty, NWFP are hardly visible in the national economy statistics. In addition, the NWFP sector is mostly informal with an inappropriate legal and institutional framework and little knowledge of and a lack of information and data on resources providing NWFP and their role in household economics and food security.
The objectives of the project “Enhancing Food Security through Non-wood Forest Products in Central Africa “ were:
The project contributed to facilitate actions by governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in six Central African countries, i.e. Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC), Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo. It aimed to enhance food security in the sub-region through the sustainable use of NWFP from moist dense forests and other tree-based systems.
It strengthened institutional capacities in the sub-region, enhanced knowledge on forest resources and agroforestry production systems and promoted better coordination among all actors concerned and involved in activities related to food security and forest conservation through the sustainable use of NWFP.
Immediate beneficiaries of the project were the government agencies and extension services responsible for the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and for the assurance of rural food security in Central Africa. The project assisted these agencies in developing and implementing appropriate policies to enhance food security through the use of NWFP. Indirect beneficiaries were the local populations, who did not have access to adequate food, nor the means or knowledge to improve their gathering.
The three-year project was funded by the Government of Germany through its Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and was implemented from July 2005 to September 2008. It supplemented and accelerated the Regular Programme of FAO's Forest Products Service (FOIP) to enhance the contribution of NWFP to food security, to improve income generation and more sustainable forest management in Central Africa. It is fully integrated into the action strategy of FAO's Forestry Department “Forests in the Congo Basin” and its three main strategic priorities to support the sustainable management of forests in the Congo Basin:
To improve livelihoods of the poorest segments of the population;
To strengthen sub-regional collaboration;
To enhance and organize data collection and management to harmonize forest and other sectoral policies
The project operated within the framework set by the Central African Forestry Commission (COMIFAC) and the Conference on Central African Moist Forest Ecosystems (CEFDHAC). It was implemented in collaboration with a multitude of partners, including the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Institut National de Développement Forestier et Gestion du Système d'Aires Protégées (INDEFOR, Equatorial Guinea), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CENAREST, Gabon) and its Institut de Recherche Agronomique et Forestières (IRAF), the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the private sector.
First phase – initial institutional set-up, information compilation, partner validation and technical preparation
After the installation of the project, a series of technical studies have been commissioned to analyse the potential contribution of forest foods to improved food security in Central Africa. On the sub-regional level, the studies focussed on the following topics:
The legislative and institutional framework guiding NWFP utilization;
The legal framework in regard to NWFP in each of the six countries;
The socio-economic impact of NWFP utilization including aspects on gender and HIV/AIDS as well as nutritive and medicinal value of NWFP;
The management of natural resources in relation to the production of NWFP;
Perspectives of NWFP certification in Central Africa;
A study on the policy and institutional frame impacting on the use of NWFP in Central Africa;
Analysis of the contribution of NWFP to food security in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Additionally, an annotated bibliography on the available literature with regard to NWFP was compiled. A synthesis report of the results of these studies has been presented during the 4th Ordinary Ministerial Meeting of COMIFAC which took place in Equatorial Guinea in September 2006. During this meeting, the Ministers endorsed the following recommendations of the preceding Expert Meeting on the legal framework relevant to NWFP:
Take into account the progress made by the project;
Establish a legal, policy and institutional framework promoting the sustainable use of NWFP;
Develop and implement a harmonized, sub-regional policy strategy facilitating the development of the NWFP sector.
Second phase – Field implementation and capacity building
Based on the results of the first phase, the project focused its activities during the second phase on the following activities:
1. Legal and policy framework regulating NWFP utilization
Elaborate regionally harmonized legislative directives for the sustainable use of NWFP in Central Africa through a NWFP working group as recommended by COMIFAC;
Define basic principles for a sound fiscal policy promoting trade and sustainable management of NWFP in Central Africa;
Elaborate a national strategy and road map for the development of the NWFP sector in Congo;
Elaborate a national strategy/action plan for an improved collection of statistical data on NWFP in Cameroon.
2. Management of NWFP
Analyse the impact of forest concessions on the availability of NWFP in the Congo Basin;
Support to the implementation of the project MTF/CMR/025/MSC for “Sustainable management of NWFP in forest concessions of Cameroon” implemented in the PALLISCO Concession in collaboration with CIFOR, WWF and IRAD from October 2007 to July 2008: Quantitative and qualitative analysis of NWFP and their use within the concession.
Support the evaluation of and formulation of recommendations for further action based on the FAO project TCP/CMR/2905 for “Institutional support and sustainable management of NWFP” implemented with the Cameroonian Ministry for Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) from October 2003 to September 2005.
3. Commercialisation of NWFP
A regional analysis of the trade in NWFP in and from Central Africa (started during 1st phase);
A study on the consumption of wild mango (Irvingia spp.) and njansang (Ricinodendron heudelotii) in Yaoundé and Libreville (started during 1st phase);
Organisation of a study tour in the North West Province of Cameroon on the following subject: “Strengthening of capacities of SME in the honey value chain”;
Compile a directory of the private sector involved in trade in NWFP in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
“Mobilising and capacity building for small and medium-scale enterprises involved in the production and commercialisation of NWFP in Central Africa”: Elaboration and implementation of the project GCP/RAF/408/EC implemented from 2007 to 2010 in Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (financed by the European Commission).
Third phase – Consolidation and dissemination
Dissemination of studies, findings and results of the project through final presentation to COMIFAC and project partners and publication on the project’s website;
Needs and opportunity assessment for setting-up a networking platform for the development of NWFP in Central Africa;
Final sub-regional workshop for discussion and validation of project results and formulation of recommendations in Douala, Cameroon (June 2008).
The sub-regional directives for sustainable use of NWFP in Central Africa, elaborated by a regional NWFP working group and discussed during several workshops, have been adopted by CEFDHAC in November 2007 and, finally, by the Ministers of COMIFAC in October 2008. They lay the foundation for an appropriate valuation of NWFP in Central Africa in political, legislative, fiscal and institutional terms in the framework of a sustainable management of forest resources.
It is envisaged to adopt these sub-regional directives within national frameworks of COMIFAC’s member countries in Central Africa: The process of adoption already started at the End of 2008 in Cameroon as the Cameroonian forestry law is in the process of being revised. FAO through its project GCP/RAF/408/EC is the lead technical partner in terms of integrating NWFP into the new law. The respective national processes in Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will be supported by a new project of FAO: “Enhancing the contribution of NWFP to poverty alleviation and food security in Central Africa” (GCP/RAF/441/GER). This three year project is financed by the German government and started in October 2009.