Forests and the forestry sector


Forests, their products and services have a crucial role in the Sudan¡¦s economy and the life of its people. The forestry sector accounted for about 2 percent of GDP in 2002 and also provides indirect benefits in environmental protection (protection of agriculture, fertile soils and human settlements from moving sands and desertification, and protection of the Nile River and its tributaries and watershed areas against sedimentation from erosion), soil amelioration, wildlife sanctuaries, work opportunities for rural people, amenity and tourism. Woodlands in the savannah zone are of great importance to the livestock sector in maintaining the productivity of rangelands. At least 7 percent of the working population of the Sudan works is engaged in forest production and forest product trade. Forests are important for provision of both wood and non-wood products and are a source of income for the rural poor.

The country¡¦s forest cover was estimated in 2000 as 61.6 million hectares, or 25.9 percent of the total area. Between 1990 and 2000, forest area was decreasing at a rate of 1.4 percent per year. The decline in forest resources was due mainly to the expansion of mechanized agriculture in central Sudan, but also to an increase in overgrazing and overexploitation to meet the demands of growing population and aggressive urbanization.

Forest reservation started as early as 1923 but proceeded slowly until 1993, when the President issued a decree for forest reservation. By the end of 2002 a total of 4.6 million hectares had been set aside as reserved forests, with the process for another 5.2 million hectares well under way. The forest vegetation in the Sudan is influenced mostly by geographical variation in rainfall. The annual rainfall is virtually nil in the northern Sahara desert but more than 1 500 mm in the southern tropical mixed forest.

Products and trade
Most of the wood production and sawmilling takes place in the riverine high-rainfall forest and savannah, confined to the central part of the country, where most of the population lives. Timber is produced from natural forests and plantations, particularly teak, mahogany and Acacia nilotica (known locally as Sunt). The savannah zones suffer from large-scale tree clearance, repeated floods during the rainy season, erosion, fierce late-season fires and sometimes conflicts between nomadic herders and farmers.

In the low-rainfall zones, forestry has a role in environmental protection through dune stabilization; in amelioration of the local microclimate for increased agricultural production through shelterbelts and agroforestry practices; and in agrosilvopastoral systems. In the mountain areas, which are threatened by erosion and water loss, forestry has a role in protection of watersheds, agroforestry and softwood plantations.

Both wood and non-wood forest products are important in both domestic and international trade. The main domestically traded wood products are fuelwood, building poles, furniture and railway sleepers.

Total wood consumption in 2000 (including fuelwood, charcoal, poles, locally produced saw logs/sawnwood and imported sawnwood) was 22.6 million cubic metres, or 0.73 million cubic metres per caput. The total annual input (allowable cut) is about 11 million cubic meters in the area north of 10¿a latitude that was inventoried in 1995. Without taking the growing stock in the wood-surplus south into consideration, there is an annual deficit of more than 11.6 million cubic meters. This should be covered by planting more trees, especially in irrigated plantations, but plantation programmes have not kept up with needs.

The most important forest product is fuelwood, which supplies some 70 percent of the country¡¦s energy requirements. Fuelwood and charcoal account for 87 percent of the wood consumed in the Sudan. However, fuelwood has become less important with the recent development of refining capacity for domestic crude oil supplies.

Poles and sawnwood accounted for 13 percent of the wood consumed in the country. The sawmilling and furniture industries are the main wood processing industries in the Sudan. Wood-based panels and paper products are imported.

Poles and other forms of roundwood are important in housing construction. In southern and western Sudan nearly all houses are built from round timber, which is needed annually for repairs.

Gum arabic, tapped mainly from Acacia senegal, is the most important non-wood product of the Sudanese forests and is one of the Sudan¡¦s leading foreign cash earners; the Sudan accounts for about 80 percent of the total world production and trade. Annual exports of gum arabic vary from 20 000 to 40 000 tonnes, accounting for US$40 million to $80 million, or about 5 percent of export earnings. Other gums such as that from Acacia seyal and Boswellia papyrefera are also important export products. Other non-wood forest products include honey (produced mainly for local markets and used as both food and medicine), beeswax, garrad pods (Acacia nilotica fruits) and other fruits and nuts. Trade in non-wood forest products has been declining since 1995 and was 7 percent of total export earnings in 1999.

Sawnwood and paper (writing paper, kraft paper, paperboard and newsprint) are the main forest products imported. Other imported wood products include plywood and veneers, but they are imported in small quantities.

Last updated: February 2003

last updated:  Thursday, January 14, 2016