Forests and the forestry sector
Mozambique has around 39 percent forest cover (30 million hectares). Natural vegetation varies from evergreen to deciduous, from mountainous, to lowland, gallery and mangrove forest and from forest to edaphic grass.
The majority of forest is open broadleaved forest, with Brachystegia spp. most common, especially in the north and centre of the country. Closed broadleaved forests are primarily montane or submontane forests, riverine forests or mangroves. Significant areas of savannah and scrubland also occur. For example, Colophospermum mopane savannah-type forest is dominant over extensive areas.
The country has a relatively extensive protected areas network with around 10 percent of the country¿s forests in protected areas.
Products and trade
The forestry sector has an important role in the country, contributing 4 percent of gross domestic product and supplying about 80 percent of the energy used. The country produces moderate volumes of mainly non-coniferous sawn timber. The value of Mozambique¿s forest product exports (mostly sawnwood) was US$8.6 million in 1999. The country imports modest volumes of forest products (predominantly wood pulp). Important non-wood forest products in Mozambique include bushmeat, grass, bamboo, reed, medicinal plants, and a variety of wild edible plants.
Mozambique has established a modest area of plantations (50 000 ha) based on Pinus, Eucalyptus and Casuarina species. Industrial plantations are mainly located in Manica Province, where they were established in the early 1980s. Their purpose was to substitute cheap softwood timber from plantations in the domestic market, saving valuable hardwood timber for export. Many Pinus spp. are planted for industrial purposes. Non-industrial plantations are located near three urban areas: Maputo, Beira and Nampula.
The first noteworthy fuelwood plantation was started in 1978. In the beginning, Eucalyptus grandis was planted, but it was later replaced with Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Eucalyptus tereticornis. In addition, Casuarina spp. are planted to control coastal sand dune movement.
The government has stopped its own plantation programme and now concentrates on promoting incentives for private plantations. Plantation issues include lack of suitable silvicultural operations, resulting in low quality timber which does not meet the needs of industry; the high cost of producing fuelwood from Eucalyptus plantations because of the cost of labour, as a result of which these plantations are practically abandoned; and the tendency of consumers to prefer local species with high heat value over wood from the Eucalyptus plantations.
Forest fire is a serious issue; approximately 40 percent of the country is affected by fire every year. The north western and central parts of the country are the most affected, with about 74 percent of these areas burnt annually. Fire has become one of the main tools for land clearing for cultivation, hunting, timber exploitation and acquisition of other goods and services from the forest including charcoal production and honey collection, and for protecting resources from wild animals. These activities, as well as accidental fires, may lead to uncontrollable wildfires.
The countryside in Mozambique is poorly managed because of infrastructure and resource constraints. Natural forest management has recently been started with the reintroduction of forest concessions in 2000, after the approval of new forest and wildlife legislation in 1999. The road network is insignificant and firebreaks do not exist. Between rivers and streams, the forest is often composed of single blocks ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of hectares. When a fire is set in a forest area, it sweeps the whole area until a river opening halts it.
Fires have a destructive impact on natural vegetation and on biodiversity. They affect a wide range of environmental aspects as well as people¿s welfare. Loss in standing timber, very much needed by the national economy, is significant, but no figures are available. Their influence on natural regeneration threatens a number of species.
Another issue is pressure on limited resources around urban areas and along the main road corridors, as a result of increase in populations in these areas, which has drastically increased the requirement for agricultural land as well as for forestry and wildlife products (mainly fuelwood).
Indications are that forests are becoming less rich in species diversity and more fragmented. The forests may be shrinking because of the loss of trees by burning incursions. The opening created in the forest canopies exposes shade-demanding plants and trees to more light and consequently to physiological disturbances and death. Pioneer trees, which germinate under intensive sunlight, invade the space created after elimination of shade-demanding trees, e.g. by fire. Last updated: 2003