International Day of Forests: Interview with Modibo Traore, Officer-in-Charge and Chief Natural Resources Management Officer at the African Natural Resources Centre

21/03/2018
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Modibo Traore

How does the International Day of Forests, March 21, align with the African Development Bank’s work in natural resources management and the Bank’s High 5 development priorities?

The theme of the 2018 International Year of Forests is “Forests and sustainable cities.” It is about promoting cleaner, greener and healthier places to live. This aligns well with the High 5 priorities of the African Development Bank, especially in terms of “Improving the quality of life of the people of Africa.” Sustainable cities as a theme is opportune because it is estimated that six billion people or as much as 70 percent of the global population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. It is important that rapid urbanisation not result directly in urban sprawl.
We know that trees and urban forests can make our cities greener, healthier and happier places to live. Indeed, trees and forests in cities:

  • cool the air
  • filter out harmful pollutants, reducing smog formation
  • prevent erosion and help clean up contaminated land
  • support local wildlife
  • increase property values by 10-27 percent in cities
  • shelter buildings from heat and cold, saving up to 10 percent of the energy needed to regulate a building’s temperature
  • mitigate the effects of climate change

Overall, trees and forests in urban landscapes have social, economic and environmental benefits. We must all recognise and support these benefits.

The African Natural Resources Centre has published a report assessing progress in forest law enforcement, governance and trade in Africa. What message would the Bank like to share with African leaders and other stakeholders on this day?

The Bank believes that Africa’s development requires the mobilisation of domestic financial resources, some of which can be raised by ensuring good governance and law enforcement in the production and trade of its natural resources. With this understanding, this report on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in Africa sets about supporting timber-exporting African countries to combat illegal timber harvesting and trade. The report focuses, in particular, on national strategies for forest law enforcement and governance, and on implementing European Union Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreements.

The report considers forest governance to be more than just law enforcement. It covers the political, institutional and cultural frameworks through which interests in forest resources are coordinated and controlled. It incorporates the rules adopted to organise and manage activities to serve larger social objectives, and to solve conflicts between stakeholder groups; how institutions function, the public’s acceptance of them, and the broader efficacy of government.

Forestry governance issues common to most countries of Africa include:

  • poor enforcement of forestry laws and regulations; invasive political influence on forestry policy and decision making;
  • lack of land-use planning;
  • lack of coordination between government ministries;
  • a substantial but poorly monitored informal sector. 

African countries exported USD4.5-billion worth of timber products in 2013. Three-quarters of these were primary products (logs, sawn wood). A limited amount was generated from secondary and tertiary wood products. The same year, timber imports to African markets amounted to USD 6.5 billion. Some 8 percent of this was intra-regional. The export and import markets within Africa present an opportunity for intra-African trade and regional integration.

The most effective sub-regional African initiatives on forestry law enforcement and good governance have been taken in Southern Africa. This has been through the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In Central Africa the Central African Forests Commission has also been doing well. Adopting the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan in 2013, SADC aims to strengthen the implementation of these activities nationally and regionally. Its aim is to continue raising awareness and resources, and to improve coordination and a sense of purpose in terms of addressing the “formalisation” of informal trade in forest products. The organisation is embracing the wider area of sustainable forest management and intra-regional trade.

The international community has launched several initiatives to curtail illegal logging. The 2003 European Union Forestry Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan emphasises governance reform and capacity building. It includes demand-side measures to reduce the consumption of illegally harvested timber in the European Union and around the world. Six countries have concluded such voluntary partnership agreements. Five of these countries are in Africa. They are Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Liberia and the Central African Republic.

The most important achievements of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Action Plan seem to be related to “equity” in the engagement of diverse national stakeholders in the voluntary partnership agreement process. Building the capacity of civil society and government has been relatively effective. However, engagement of private sector stakeholders has remained weak, despite a number of initiatives led by international NGOs and business associations. Many countries have made first steps in policy reforms, but a lot still remains to be done, particularly in terms of implementing new legislations.

The main gaps in forest governance are still to be found in national and intra-African timber markets. They are growing sharply and creating a strain on forest resources and biodiversity, as well as on the livelihoods of people living in forested areas. To have a decisive impact, the African Development Bank wants to consider implementing a regional programme to promote legality in national and intra-African timber markets. The programme’s overall objective would be to contribute to African economic integration by promoting domestic consumption and the intra-African trade of legally produced timber and processed wood products.

What have been the African Development Bank’s greatest achievements in the last few years in Africa’s forestry sector?

The Bank prepared a Policy for the Forestry Sector in 1993. This was motivated by increasing awareness that widespread deforestation is a key cause of poverty in developing countries and a serious threat to local, regional and global environments. It recognised the need to take steps to reverse the trend through appropriate planning and actions. The main purpose of the policy was for the Bank to re-examine the forestry sub-sector and lending programmes in order to play a more effective role in protection, conservation, management, and utilisation of forests in African countries. The policy thus presents guidance on all these aspects and more fundamentally on investment approaches and priorities for the African Development Bank Group, its partners and other stakeholders in the forestry sector.

The Bank continues to pursue a holistic approach, where it analyses and considers management of the whole range of natural resources (plants, animals, fish, water etc). Key focus is on long-term sustainability, protection of forest ecosystems and benefits for people. The forestry sector contributes to a country’s overall economy.

Over the past 30 years, the African Development Bank has supported natural resources development and management in Africa, both in the renewable and non-renewable sub-sectors. In the renewable natural resources sub-sector, the Bank has supported both national and regional programmes. It has supported diverse national forestry programmes and projects in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Kenya.

Regional projects that the Bank has supported include the Congo Basin Ecosystems project, the Awash Watershed Management project, and Lake Chad Environment projects. The Congo Basin Forest Fund initiatives stand out in particular. Two projects on the promotion of forest products for income generation, food security and nutrition covered eight of central Africa’s 10 countries. These were Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé & Príncipe. The key results from these projects showed that several forest products are very important for the livelihoods of the people in terms of the provision of proteins, fats, vitamins, essential minerals and bioactive compounds. Based on these results, the governments of most countries in central Africa are promoting forest products for food security and nutrition.

Under the Climate Investment Funds, the African Development Bank has collaborated with the World Bank to use resources from the Strategic Climate Fund to help African countries implement their to commitments to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+) through the Forest Investment Programme. This programme’s objective is to mobilise and invest funds to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and also generate economic benefits for local communities. This will lead to emission reductions and the protection of carbon stocks as part of the REDD+ agenda. Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and other nations have benefitted technically and financially from the African Development Bank’s support to enable them to review paradigms towards sustainable forest management, and to include climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for improved environmental resilience and livelihoods.

The Bank has initiated several programmes and projects to halt the current deforestation rate by reinforcing the capacities of national or regional institutions in charge of managing the forests. It has done so by supporting sustainable natural resource management and collective action for environmental sustainability. Its experience shows that secure access to natural resources, especially land and water, and the technologies to exploit them in an effective and sustainable manner, coupled with strong policies and institutional frameworks are essential to poverty reduction. Several Bank-supported projects have been successful in scaling up good practices and recovering marginal land and ecosystems. These include watershed management projects in Burundi and Cape Verde, improved soil fertility management in The Gambia and Malawi, forest conservation and afforestation in Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Kenya. Knowledge work has been carried out on forest resources of Liberia and Benin through Economic and Sector Work.

A sample of ongoing Bank projects include: 

  • Republic of Congo – Approved and launched in 2017, the USD 5.9 million Investment Climate and Forest Governance Support Project is part of a USD 21.7 million joint project between the Bank’s Governance and Public Financial Management department and the African Natural Resources Centre. This institutional support project emphasises small and medium enterprise development, including forest sector SMEs, investment climate improvement to increase the forest and timber sector’s contribution to the diversification of the national economy.
  • South Sudan – A joint project between the Bank’s Governance, Finance and Economic Management Department and the African Natural Resources Centre is supporting good governance and capacity building in natural resources management in South Sudan. The project is funded by a USD 1.4-million grant from the Transition Support Facility Pillar III. The overall objective of the project is to provide support to the evolution of inclusive policies and strategies for the sustainable management of forestry resources in South Sudan. It does so through institutional capacity building and sector management information systems development. Main components include establishing a functional forest inventory unit in the country’s forestry department, and support to Kagelu Forestry Training Centre.
  • Liberia – The Bank is working on a three-year (2018-2021) USD 1-million project to help Liberia strengthen its secondary wood processing sector and create job creation, inclusive growth and economic diversification. This project is funded by the multi-donor Fund for African Private Sector Assistance.
  • Sudan – Through the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance, the African Development Bank is working on a three-year project (2018-2021) USD 1-million project to help Sudan strengthen the gum Arabic value chain for job creation, inclusive growth and economic diversification.
  • Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea – Through funding of USD 14 million from the Adaptation Fund, the African Development Bank is working on a project (2018-2022) that helps both countries increase local communities’ adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change through forest landscape restoration.
  • Congo Basin – The Bank is conducting a study on sustainable industrialisation of the timber value chain in the Congo Basin. This is part of the Bank’s efforts to support the diversification of regional economies dependent on such extractive resources as oil. Expectations are that the institutional capacity building channeled through SME development and the promotion of downstream value addition through local content policies and domestic linkages contained in projects such as those mentioned above in the Republic of Congo, will contribute to increasing private investments in the sharply growing national and intra-African timber trade.
  • The African Development Bank is also making an evaluation of private investment models in commercial forestry in Africa.