UN 32/6.1301-78-04
Technical Report 2

(in the framework of the Global Environment Monitoring System - GEMS)



Report prepared
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
as cooperating agency with
the United Nations Environment Programme

First printing 1981
Second printing 1982

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and of the United Nations Environment Programme concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-101087-0

The copyright in this book is vested in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and in the United Nations Environment Programme. Applications for permission to reproduce this book, in whole or in part, by any method or process, should be addressed, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction desired, to the Director, Publications Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.


In accordance with their mandate and the recommendations of their statutory bodies, FAO and UNEP agreed to undertake a reassessment of the present situation and current evolution of the forest resources of the tropical world, within the framework of the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS). The FAO/UNEP tropical forest resources assessment project, signed on 8 November 1978 by both organizations, started on 1 December 1978 and was completed in June 1981. The present report in its English and French versions provides the results found for tropical Africa. Two other reports refer respectively to tropical America (in Spanish) and to tropical Asia (in English). Results for the three regions together and project conclusions are summarized in a fourth report published in English, French and Spanish.

This report consists of two parts, each in a separate volume. The first one briefly described the methodology and presents the results obtained for the whole region. The second part comprises the 36 “country briefs” which provide more detailed information for each of the countries studied.

The present total area of the closed forests of tropical Africa has been found equal to 216 million ha, a figure of the same order of magnitude as that of commonly accepted estimates. Annual deforestation sensu stricto, i.e. clearing for agriculture and other land uses, has been estimated at 1.3 million ha (or an annual deforestation rate of 0.61%) and seems to level off at this amount. It is most serious and already of long standing in countries of western Africa (along the African coast from Guinea-Bissau to Nigeria) where only 18 million ha are left with a very high annual deforestation rate of 4.0%. 80% of tropical closed forests are concentrated in the forested countries of central Africa (about 50% in Zaire alone) and are not really threatened for the time being, with an annual deforestation of less than 0.2%. Africa remains basically a continent of savannas: woodlands, wooded and tree savannas not affected by agriculture actually cover about 500 million ha to which must be added a slightly smaller area of shrub formations. These mixed forest - grassland tree formations are also subject to clearing (about 2.3 million ha cleared annually) and to the combined action of degradation by overexploitation for fuelwood, overgrazing and repeated fires. Intensive forest management and afforestation cover too small an area in the face of this continuous process of clearing and impoverishment of the natural woody vegetation of tropical Africa. Only 1% of the productive closed forests is under working plans and plantations successfully established every year represent only 2.5% of the areas of tree formations cleared annually.

The work has been conceived and carried out by the project coordinator, Mr. J.P. Lanly, assisted for tropical Africa by the following experts (in alphabetical order): Messrs. J. Clément (3 countries and regional synthesis), P. Coppin (10 countries), R. Fontaine (4 countries), M. Gillis (4 countries), J. Guellec (interpretation of satellite images) and A. van der Zon (one country). The many experts and institutions consulted which kindly collaborated are gratefully acknowledged and their list given on the next page.

We consider the study to be particularly timely for presenting some of the basic data needed for conservation, development and wise utilization of the forest resources of tropical Africa. The continuous updating of this initial data baseline is contemplated over the years to come in order to provide governments and the international community with the most correct information possible on tropical forest resources and their evolution at any given time.

 M.A. Flores Rodas
 Assistant Director General
 Forestry Department


FAO is greatly indebted to the following institutions and persons who contributed to the study:

Benin:Direction des Eaux, Forêts et Chasses (L. Worou) Projet pilote de surveillance de la couverture forestière tropicale (L. Okio, Kogui)
Burundi:Department des Eaux, Forêts et Chasses (A. Kabayanda)
Cameroon:Direction des Eaux, Forêts et Chasses (B.A. Fultang) Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique (J.J. Faure)
Congo:Direction des Eaux, Forêts et des Ressources Naturelles Centre Technique Forestier Tropical (J.C. Delwaulle, B. Jean)
Gabon:Direction Générale des Eaux et Forêts
Ghana:Forestry Department (J.H. François, K. Kese) Department of Game and Wildlife (G.A. Punguse)
Ivory Coast:Ministère des Eaux et Forêts (Konan Konan, Lovenbruck) Société pour le Développement des Plantations Forestières (J. Miélot, N'Gbeche Niango) Centre Technique Forestier Tropical (P. Barbaud, H.F. Maitre, F. Wencelius)
Liberia:Forestry Development Authority
Madagascar:Direction Générale du Développement Rural, de la Réforme Agraire et de la Coopérativisation - Service des Eaux et Forêts (Ramanahadray Fils) Centre National de la Recherche Appliquée au Développement Rural - Département de Recherches Forestières et Piscicoles (A. Rakotomanampison)
Malawi:Department of Forestry (E.D. May, W.M. Ndovi)
Niger:Direction des Eaux et Forêts (I. Najada)
Nigeria:Federal Department of Forestry
Senegal:Direction des Eaux, Forêts et Chasses (El Hadji Sène)
Sierra Leone:Forestry Division (P.D. Palmer)
Somalia:National Range Agency - Forest Department
Sudan:Forests Administration (A.A. Bayoumi)
Tanzania:Forest Division
Togo:Office National de Développement et d'Exploitation des Ressources Forestières (O. Nadjombe)
Upper-Volta:Direction de l'Aménagement Forestier et du Reboisement (B.S. Ouedraogo)
Zaire:Service Permanent d'Inventaire et d'Aménagement Forestier (Kanu Mbizi, Mabiala-ma-Khete, C. Noël)
Zambie:Forest Department (G.E. Grout)

In addition to the authors mentioned in the foreword the following FAO forestry experts assisted in the collection and compilation of the data and in the revision of the country briefs: P.E.T. Allen (Nigeria), M. de Backer (Upper Volta), J.B. Ball (Nigeria), E. Bourguignon (Benin), A. Cameratti (Upper Volta), L.E. Dow (Liberia), T. Hounto-Hotegbe (Burundi), J.P. Huygen (The Gambia, Senegal), J.D. Keita (Ghana, Mali), R. Levingston (revision of english text), M.J. Lyons (Ethiopia), J. Malleux-Orjeda (Mozambique), A.D. Mather (Kenya), J.M. Samyn (Upper Volta), D.C. Schwaar (Sierra Leone), G.M. Schmidt (Liberia) and H. Sutter (Nigeria).

Rome © FAO and UNEP 1981

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Part I

Chapter I   Introduction

1   Background

2   Objectives of the study

3   Project activities

Chapter II Methodology

1   Introduction

2   Concepts and classifications

3   Interpretation of satellite imagery (Landsat)

4   Presentation of results

Chapter III   Forest resources of tropical Africa

1   Present situation

2   Present trends

3   Conclusions