Item 9 of the Provisional Agenda


Rome, Italy, 10-14 March 2003


Secretariat Note

Table of Contents


1. The recently completed Forestry Outlook Study for Africa (FOSA) provides a 20-year perspective and long term planning framework for the development of the sector. The main outputs are an overview and 5 sub-regional reports that address issues pertaining to North, East, Southern, Central and West Africa. These reports identify driving forces, describe policy and institutional scenarios for forestry development, assess implications for the future of forestry and present possible ways of increasing its contributions to sustainable development.

2. Factors expected to have an impact on the forest sector over the next 20 years include the varying pace of political and institutional changes, frequent conflicts and wars, demographic changes, high debt burden, declining development assistance and persistent poverty and food insecurity. In the absence of fundamental changes, the forestry situation in Africa will be marked by continued high losses of forest cover, deterioration in the state of the environment, depletion of non-wood forest products in general and medicinal plants in particular, and a significant decline in productivity and in purchasing capacity on national and local markets as a result of HIV/AIDS.

3. If current trends are to be reversed, political will coupled with integrated strategies are required to alleviate poverty and protect the environment. Such action means empowering key stakeholders through policy and institutional changes and creating conditions to support sustainable resource management. In this regard, efforts are needed to revitalise the public sector; improve the functioning of market forces through legal and institutional measures; and to support the informal sector.


4. The Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-2015 (Rome, 1999) calls for support to member countries through long term outlook studies that identify trends and opportunities in key sectors. As globalisation advances and economies become increasingly interdependent, realistic long term scenarios and an understanding of how various factors impact on the forest sector are critical elements in decision-making. It is in this context that FAO, under the guidance of various Regional Forestry Commissions, initiated a series of outlook studies to provide a better foundation for the formulation and implementation of national forest programmes. To date, the following studies have been completed:

5. A study for Europe and another for Latin America are expected to be completed in 2004. Preparatory work on the Forestry Outlook Study for the Middle East and West Asia region has been initiated and is targeted for completion in 2005.

6. These outlook studies provide an indication of trends in the forest sector, taking into account (a) demographic changes, (b) economic and structural changes, especially growth and distribution of income and dependency on land (c) technological developments and the rate of their adoption, (d) society’s responses to local, national and global environmental issues and (e) changes in the policy and institutional environment. Alternative scenarios are constructed, partly based on standard modelling approaches and on qualitative parameters to take into account factors that cannot be easily quantified. Based on an assessment of the current situation and on driving forces, these outlook studies define probable scenarios in situations where business-as-usual practices are likely to persist. Opportunities and constraints are also considered in the formulation of priorities and strategies to bring about improvements.

7. The Committee was briefed on the Global Fibre Supply Model, the Global Forest Products Outlook Study and the Asia Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study during the Fourteenth Session (see COFO-99/3). The present document provides an overview of the Forestry Outlook Study for Africa (FOSA), including the process; key findings and their implications; and proposed follow up action.



8. The objectives of FOSA were to: analyse the status, trends and driving forces shaping forestry in Africa; identify emerging opportunities and constraints to the year 2020; and indicate strategies that could enhance the contribution of forestry to sustainable development. By providing a long term view that incorporates inter-sectoral dimensions, it is hoped that FOSA will be used as a tool to strengthen national forests programmes.

9. While developing a long term outlook was the primary objective of FOSA, emphasis was also placed on (a) involving all countries and major partners, including stakeholders, to ensure ownership of the process and of outcomes; and (b) enhancing the capacity of countries for long

term planning (see Box).

Undisplayed Graphic

Geographical coverage and outputs

10. FOSA covers all 53 countries of Africa. In view of the wide ecological, economic and socio-political divergences, the continent was divided into five regions and future prospects of forestry were assessed, taking into account the particular circumstances in each sub-region. The main products of FOSA are a regional overview of key developments and of forestry in Africa within the global context; and reports of developments in the forest sector in the 5 sub-regions.


Current situation

Undisplayed Graphic

11. The regional and sub-regional reports have a common structure and format. The overview includes a brief description of the state of forest and tree resources, including deforestation, sustainable forest management, plantations, the role of trees outside forests, and the management of wildlife resources. Issues relating to forest based environmental services are also noted in the reports, as are the production and consumption of wood and non-wood products, including significant regional differences (Table 1).

Driving forces

12. A detailed assessment of the driving forces forms the basis of FOSA reports. The underlying rationale is that what happens in the forest sector is largely determined by what happens outside the sector. FOSA specifically takes into account the following considerations.

Scenarios for forestry development

13. In identifying the future scenarios for forestry development, FOSA focuses on the policy and institutional environment because of its critical importance in enhancing freedom of choice and empowering key actors. Approaches to define scenarios developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute and adapted for the global and African environment outlook studies by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were modified to suit the situation that prevails in forestry in Africa. The likely features, namely public sector dominance, market forces and the informal sector, have been examined along with ways in which they could evolve.

Future direction of forestry in Africa

14. A major thrust of FOSA is to outline the probable situation in forestry if business-as-usual practices persist. Key variables such as forest cover, the extent of sustainable forest management, the role of plantations and trees outside forests in increasing wood supplies, demand for wood and wood products, and the management of protected areas and of non-wood forest products were used to formulate different scenarios and identify changes that would occur. Based on the Global Forest Products Model and other forecasting tools, trends were estimated in the production and consumption of woodfuel, industrial roundwood, sawnwood, panel products and printing and writing paper. Table 2 summarises likely outcomes of selected indicators.

Table 2. The likely situation in Africa in 2020

Key indicators

Likely situation in 2020

Forest cover

  • The next two decades will see significant loss of forest cover, similar to that in the 1990s.

Area under sustainable forest management

  • Progress in expanding the area under sustainable forest management will be slow. The declining capacity of governments and communities indicates that large areas will remain under unsustainable use. Illegal logging will remain a major problem.


  • Limited expansion of planted forests will occur in a few countries. Given that supplies of plantation wood will increase globally during the next two decades, Africa is unlikely to be in a position to produce wood competitively, compared to other regions.

Trees outside forests

  • Trees in home gardens and in woodlots established with industry support will increase, especially when land tenure is well defined. However, tree growth on communal land will decline due to over-exploitation.


  • Wood will continue to be the main source of energy and the consumption is expected to increase from about 635 million m3 in 2000 to about 850 million m3 in 2020.
  • Increased urban demand, especially for charcoal, will result in further degradation of forests and woodlands close to urban centres.

Other wood products

  • Domestic demand for high value-added items is expected to remain sluggish in view of low incomes.
  • Most processed products will be imported and the limited number of domestic processing units will face increasing competition.
  • North Africa will continue to be a major importer of most products.
  • Trade in forest products is poised for major changes, given the various global, regional and sub-regional trading arrangements.

Non-wood forest products

  • Rapid depletion of several products will occur, especially because of exploitation to meet urban demand.
  • Limited efforts will be made to domesticate and cultivate trees and plants for non-forest products.

Trade of forest products

  • Africa will remain at the margin of global trade of forest products largely because of its concentration of production of low value-added products.
  • Trade will continue to shift towards Asia.
  • Growth of intra-African trade depends on removing several constraints, especially institutional and infrastructural.

Wildlife management

  • Persistent land use conflicts will undermine the ability to take full advantage of the potential of wildlife for bushmeat, tourism and other purposes;
  • Expansion will be limited to a few countries that have well-developed infrastructures and well-known attractions.
  • Benefits from wildlife based tourism accruing to local communities will remain limited notwithstanding current efforts to promote participatory approaches.

Environmental services

  • Progress in watershed management will be weak.
  • Land degradation and desertification are likely to become more severe.
  • Biological diversity will continue to be lost.

Poverty alleviation

  • Forests will continue to play a key role in meeting the basic needs of poor people, largely through the informal sector.
  • Activities in the formal sector only address poverty indirectly and most often inadequately.
  • Empowerment through participatory approaches will be limited.

15. The significant sub-regional differences in economic conditions (size of the economies, per capita income, extent of economic diversification) and the state of forestry (forest cover, productivity, capacity to sustainably manage the resource) point toward tremendous opportunity for regional cooperation. For example, Central Africa could become an important supplier to wood-deficit countries on the continent, provided infrastructure and measures to facilitate trade improve. Opportunities also exist to realize economies of scale in research, education and training and to enhance collaboration on trans-boundary issues such as protected areas that have been established. These aspects are highlighted in the sub-regional reports.

What needs to be done

16. The outlook emerging from the business-as-usual scenario suggests the need to adopt a very different approach to forestry in Africa. Drawing from initiatives like the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), FOSA outlines the priorities and strategies for enhancing the contribution of forestry to the economic, social and environmental interests of Africa. Considering the prevalence of poverty and the rapidly deteriorating environment, poverty alleviation and environmental protection will remain the most important priorities over the next two decades.

17. Empowering key stakeholders through policy and institutional changes and creating conditions to support sustainable resource management would be the main thrust of strategies in most countries. Specific emphasis should be given to revitalising the public sector; improving the functioning of market forces through appropriate legal and institutional measures; and supporting the informal sector.

Table 3. An overview of the strategies

Main direction of change


Revitalising the public sector

  • Redefining the structure and functions of public sector forestry agencies and enhancing their ability to enforce the principles of sustainable forest management

  • Improving science and technology capacity

  • Developing transparent and accountable institutions

  • Strengthening regional and sub-regional collaboration

Making markets work for the poor

  • Strengthening the legal and institutional framework for the efficient operation of market forces to provide a level playing field

  • Ensuring compliance to social and environmental provisions

Enhancing the efficiency of the informal sector

  • Developing and implementing legal and institutional frameworks

  • Improving access to information, especially that related to technology and markets


18. All outlook studies point toward significant long term changes, most often driven by factors outside the forest sector. As globalisation progresses, the pace of such changes is expected to accelerate. While new opportunities may arise, threats and constraints will also surface. The sector must therefore ready itself to take advantage of emerging, often short-lived, opportunities that outlook studies identify. Of particular importance is the need to better foresee changes at the national level and to determine ways to positively interact with other sectors.

19. Given that problems such as population growth, uncertain economic growth, declining public sector resources, declining overseas development assistance, and limited adoption of improved technologies are likely to persist, substantial efforts must be made at national and global levels to strengthen capacity.

20. The value of FOSA stems from involving a number of key partners and stakeholders to facilitate broad-based thinking on long term issues. It provides an overall framework that needs to be refined and included in planning processes at various levels.

21. FOSA highlights the links between forestry, food security and poverty alleviation, noting that most solutions are found in sectors like agriculture and industry. However, poor economic performance, particularly in agriculture, compels poor people to rely on forests for their livelihood. This poses a dilemma to foresters and other policy makers and, in the absence of fundamental changes, overcoming this problem will remain difficult. Since traditional approaches to forestry are insufficient to alleviate poverty and to prevent environmental degradation, alternatives must be sought to bring about positive change.

22. Another major issue is how to carry out forestry in the face of severe resource constraints. Many initiatives that were implemented with external financial and technical assistance have proven to be unsustainable in the long run: logging in rainforests, large scale plantation development, commercial cultivation of selected non-wood forest products, and development of large scale forest industries, for example.

23. The Committee may wish to consider how to better use outlook studies at the national level, how to improve strategic planning in the forest sector and what needs to be done at global and regional levels to strengthen country capacity. More specifically, the Committee may wish to give advice to FAO and partners, including countries, on possible collaboration in: