Forestry policies, institutions and programmes

Saudi Arabia

The forests of Saudi Arabia are threatened by a harsh environment, which is characterized by low fluctuating rainfall, overwhelming drought, high temperatures, and anthropogenic factors including urban and agricultural expansion as well as fuelwood cutting. The interaction of natural and anthropogenic factors is compounded by the lack of qualified forestry personnel in comparison to the optimum required to implement the activities necessary to sustainably manage the resources.

The Government of Saudi Arabia has undertaken a number of institutional and/or legislative measures and fostered a number of projects to reduce the degradation of forests and also conserve, expand and develop existing forests.

The Range and Forests Administration (RFA), within the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and answering directly to the under-secretary for agricultural affairs, has direct responsibility for forests. RFA is organized into three departments for development of Range, Forests and Agricultural Environment and each department embraces a number of divisions. RFA has been developing a draft Forest Policy, whose main elements are to combat desertification, arrest sand encroachment, improve the agricultural and residential environment, increase and expand greeneries, encourage ecotourism, promulgate legislation to protect forests and tree species and build capacity.

The General Administration for National Parks (GANP) was established to protect areas with particular environmental qualities for the protection of wildlife and enrichment of biological diversity in addition to recreational and educational purposes. GANP comprises two administrations; one to manage and develop National Parks and the other to operate and maintain them. To date, eight national parks have been established across Saudi Arabia.

The Marine Environment Administration (MEA), which answers to the undersecretary for fisheries, has the mandate of protecting mangroves, which face tremendous pressures due to urban expansion, recreational facilities, browsing and felling for fuelwood.

The Forest and Range Act aims to protect range and forests, their land content and the regulation of their use. Among other things, the Act forbids the cutting of trees, shrubs, saplings or the utilization of their products without prior approval. The Forest and Range Act and its by-laws are supported by a number of resolutions that set the penalties for Forest Act violators; decree the conservation of forest land and forbid the issue of ownership certificates for forest land; and demarcate the areas to remain as range lands and those to be distributed as farms without jeopardizing range in all districts of the kingdom.

Other activities of RFA within the context of general policy and enforcement of the Forest and Range Act and its by-laws include the establishment of forest guards to supervise forest and range areas, the initiation of forest inventory, and related studies, including a forest utilization and development study carried out in cooperation with King Abdel Aziz¿s City for Science and Technology (KACST), MoA and King Saud¿s University in Riyadh.

RFA is implementing projects and programmes on forest development and improvement (covering artificial regeneration, irrigation and maintenance of newly afforested areas, opening of roads and establishment of new nurseries); forest inventory; operation and maintenance of forest nurseries; fixation of drifting sand; and a sand project at Wadi Dawasir. The department has also implemented some projects for rainwater and runoff spreading and rainwater harvesting. Range depots were also established for storage of forage material and distribution during drought seasons.

One of the most prominent activities of the Range Protection and Development Department (RPDD) is sand dune stabilization through various means but particularly through the use of trees and shrubs which tolerate drought, salinity, wind and high temperature. This method is successful and sustainable.

Last updated: May 2004

last updated:  Friday, February 19, 2010