Forest management - History

Central African Republic

Forest management and silviculture

Forest conservation efforts have their origin in colonial laws passed in 1916 concerning the establishment of national parks and reserves. The first national park was established in 1933, and the first game reserves also date from the 1930s.

Because CAR is a landlocked country far from international markets, the southwestern forests were not opened to commercial logging until 1945, and even then on a fairly small-scale basis, with a few logging companies working in Lobaye to produce sawn wood for the local market. In the early 1950s, an inventory programme was designed and implemented by the national forest service, and later by the Tropical Forest Technical Centre (CTFT). The objective was a detailed review of the state and size of exploitable rainforest and the potential value of the standing crop of high-value forest species.

CAR was one of the first African countries to undertake forest inventories and to call for detailed regulations and management plans as a prerequisite to harvesting permits. In 1967, the first forest harvesting permits (temporary harvesting permits, the ¿Permis temporaires d¿exploitation¿ or PTE) were issued in the prefectures of what are now Haute Sangha and Mambéré-Kadei. At that time, a logging company could only move in after a convention had been signed between the company and the Ministry of Forestry. The permit covered the size of the concession, production targets, the reciprocal duties of company and government, plus controls and sanctions. These earlier permits represented comparatively small areas, and were rarely valid for longer than five years. Until 1970, logging was confined to the Lobaye forest within a radius of 130 kilometers around Bangui. The total area of forest concessions was 442 900 hectares in 1969, 842 00 hectares in 1985 and a little over 3 million hectares in 1999. Forest logging now requites a harvesting and management permit (Permis d¿exploitation et d¿aménagement, or PEA) which is valid for the lifetime of the company. Ten logging companies are active in CAR. A substantial proportion of the southwestern forest, some 86 percent of the total, is under concession. The as-yet unallocated public domain forest covers some 1.3 million hectares. This includes 0.3 million hectares of forest reserves, comprising 250 000 hectares of reserves and parks and 50 000 hectares of classified forests in the southwestern zone. Unallocated area thus totals about one million hectares, but much of this is made up of secondary forest.

Tree-planting activities are relatively recent in CAR compared to other African countries. The ONF (Office national des forêts) was established in 1968 with a mandate to reforest and manage classified areas. The ONF established plantations in Lolé, Mokinda and Sakpa. From 1968-69, planting trials were also run on Tectona grandis. Plantation activities only really got underway full swing in 1972. The area currently under forest plantations is estimated at 3 000 hectares. Plantation programmes established by the Ministry in charge of forests are still in the experimental stages, and planted areas are quite small for lack of an effective reforestation policy.

A great deal of research and studies came out of forest management-linked projects in CAR on such subjects as silviculture, dendrometric studies and the like. The Central African Rainforest Management plan and the research effort in M¿Baiki are two examples. With the enactment of the wildlife protection code in 1984 and the various international and regional conventions to which CAR is a signatory, CAR¿s legislation on environmental and wildlife conservation began to reflect a general vision based on a new approach. Beginning in 1985, FAO supplied assistance to implement a nationwide wildlife management programme. In 1994, the PARN project inventoried the entire southwestern rainforest.

In the last several years, the Government has undertaken sweeping reforms in the forestry sector. These concern revision of the legal and regulatory framework, including the adoption of a code to protect wildlife, a revised forest code, a restructured MEEFCP, the elimination of ONF, CNPAF and OCATOUR and the establishment of the Fund for Forest Development and Tourism (FDFT). A 1980-1990 process intended to de-link the state sector involved a vast programme of privatization. At a very early date, the Government encouraged in-country wood processing, and by 1994 it decided to ban log exports altogether to boost local processing of wood products. At the same time, export taxes were lowered to offset the landlocked factor and the inherent high production costs for reaching ports of exit.

Under current policy, CAR stresses the development of the forest sector through the management requirement attached to all harvesting permits, reduced volumes of log exports so as to increase local processing of wood products, the involvement of private partners, NGOs and local people in the forest management process, and expanding the share of financial benefits from forest exploitation for local communities.

last updated:  Monday, March 1, 2010