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Protecting Africa's green lungs: Reducing emissions, creating wealth.

Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

It is one of those peculiar ironies that in a world whose economies are rapidly globalising, that the decentralisation of governance is a growing trend. It mirrors the rallying cry of environmentalists to "think globally and act locally" and, as the first chapter illustrates, this is central to the ongoing debate regarding the governance of Africa's forests.

The six co-authors of this book's first chapter state that many African countries have embarked on a decentralisation process as a key response to the demand for a better management of natural resources, including forests, and for a more equitable sharing of benefits of these assets.

Even if the decentralisation processes in sub-Saharan Africa have taken various forms and been executed at different paces, there is common agreement that decentralisation ideally involves accords not to isolate the process from a national forest programme, nor indeed from a broader regional and pan-African approach to forestry conservation. All nations suffer from the uncontrolled destruction of the world's forests and deforestation and other land-use changes are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.


Given the importance of decentralisation, it is important to determine what exactly this entails. According to the book, decentralisation is, at least in part, the transfer of powers and resources to authorities that are responsible to local populations. This implies a shift in accountability to local government, district, rural and village councils, and/or traditional rulers and community-based organisations.

There are dangers of local elites and vested interest groups exploiting the opportunities of decentralisation, and the possibility that in some countries, the state uses decentralisation to avoid responsibility while retaining control of valuable resources--using various means such as complex regulations, heavy taxation and the use of permits--but the authors support decentralisation, if properly applied, as being broadly in the public interest. The book is divided into three major sections: part one that frames the dialogue by providing an overview of key themes; part two that looks at decentralised forest management including an examination of the extent and efficiency of its implementation in various countries; and part three that looks at the global drivers in terms of international trade, finance and forest-sector governance reforms.

Finally, a concluding chapter authored by Doris Capistrano draws attention to the difficult challenges that Africa faces. She draws heavily on the general recommendations that emerged from the 2008 Workshop on Forest Governance and Decentralisation in Africa held in Durban, South Africa. This workshop provided a platform for bringing together international and national processes and sharing the experiences of local people in their attempts to locally manage resources that are of global importance.

Recording these local perspectives both complemented and enriched subsequent international discussions, and strengthened the argument for local involvement in the regional and global dialogue and management of forests.

Capistrano, as well as discussing the enormous challenges, makes clear that Africa possesses "tremendous reserves of capacity ... to deal with difficult issues [and] innovate in the face of new challenges and unfolding opportunities."

The REDD initiative

Arguably, one of Africa's most promising opportunities lies with reversing one of the Kyoto Protocol's most glaring omissions. That omission was to exclude forestry (other than afforestation and reforestation) from the Clean Development Mechanism initiative that might have protected existing forests by rewarding developing countries for keeping forest assets standing, and resisting the commercial pressures to fell trees, whether to export valuable lumber to overseas markets or to clear forested areas to expand agricultural activities such as mono-crop plantations.

The decision to create the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to assist developing countries in their efforts in Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was taken at the Bali Conference of Parties (COP) in December 2007. The FCPF's REDD became operational in June 2008, providing value to standing forests and helping to build the capacity of developing countries in tropical and subtropical regions to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

It is also anticipated that FCPF's move will tap into any future system after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The primary objective is to enable countries to tackle deforestation as well as develop capacity for assessment of measurable and verifiable emission reductions.

The FCPF's initial activities relate to technical assistance and capacity building for REDD in countries in the tropics across Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia to stem deforestation and forest degradation, and design national monitoring, reporting and verification systems.


As one of the book's chapters that specifically discusses the issue of climate change and its implications for forest governance attests, forests play a central role in the climate change issue. It states that "through conserving and responsibly managing all types of forests, there is an important potential to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing carbon sinks".

This chapter goes on to say that with an increased attention to forests, particularly through the expected inclusion of REDD and other forest mitigation options in a post-2012 regime, it is expected that countries that improve their forest governance, clarify forest and carbon tenure and address illegality effectively, are far more likely to immediately benefit from future mitigation incentives, as well as investments in forest-based adaptation.

The authors also make the point that forest restoration (rather than simply conservation) is one of the most promising options for restoring "carbon stocks", i.e trees. They define restoration as "the combination of planting trees and human-induced natural regeneration within a degraded forest area that has lost most of its carbon stock".


The New Great Game

However, it has to be expected that commercial pressures will weigh heavy, and greed will also play its part, in encouraging the felling of trees and the unsustainable extraction of valuable timber. In this regard, an early chapter by Alain Karsenty (one of the three editors) outlines the shift in Africa's trade flows, which applies to timber as well as any other natural resource.

Karsenty draws an analogy with the 19th century struggle between imperial Russia and the British Empire, which was referred to at the time as the Great Game. The New Great Game is, he argues, the new trade orientation that Africa has towards the Ear East and the shift away from the historic domination that Western powers had over the continent.

"Another Great Game is growing out of the question of access to future income from conservation linked to international efforts to combat climate change," Karsenty writes. "The leading African forest countries (located primarily in Central Africa) have organised themselves with this in mind and won their first points in Bali at the 2007 COP [where the REDD initiative was framed] by talking about 'forest degradation'.

"This emerging game," he cautions, "should not lose sight of its core goal--namely, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, on the one hand, and to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the African people to rise out of poverty on the other."

But he also says, "impressive monetary reserves" have enabled China, more than any other country, to purchase existing oil and gas entities as well as companies that have already negotiated mining and forestry concessions.

The concern seems to be that "the change in direction of export flows from Africa threatens to weaken the 'standards-based regulations policy' that had previously met with some success in African forestry ..."

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Karsenty s analysis, other contributors to this study confirm his observation of the shift in trade flows towards China. For example, the chapter that examines Tanzania's timber industry's community-based forest management (Tanzania has one of the most decentralised systems of local government in Africa) reveals that the trade in forest products is thriving and China has emerged as the fastest-growing importer of hardwoods from the country, a clear shift from the 1980s when 82% of sawn hardwood exports were destined for Western Europe.

Other chapters of the book examine the timber industries of Senegal, Mali and Ghana in the West to Uganda and Kenya in the East and Madagascar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa in Southern Africa. But it is notable that the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) funding is given a very short mention--doubly surprising given that editor Karsenty acknowledges that the Congo Basin is Africa's most important rainforest region and the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF) is a hugely important multimillion-dollar initiative. The CBFP is the world's second-largest expanse of forest, accounting for 26% of the world's tropical rainforest. With an estimated total area of 200m hectares, the Congo Basin rainforests span 10 African countries with 123m people who benefit from the forests' 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds and 400 species of mammals.

Working in close partnership with the Central African Forests Commission, the sole decision-making body for forests in the region, the 2008 international funding decision that created the Congo Basin Forest Fund was innovative in its use of satellite imagery to track both the legal and illegal activities of local communities and logging companies.

Norway and the UK made an initial donation of $200m to the CBFF to be administered by the AfDB. It funds an international response to one of the most critical of Africa's environmental challenges.

Earthscan won the Independent Publisher of the Year award for 2010.

Edited by Laura A German, Alain Karsenty and Anne-Marie Tiani [pounds sterling]65 Earthscan

ISBN 978-1-84407-756-4
COPYRIGHT 2010 IC Publications Ltd.
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Comment:Protecting Africa's green lungs: Reducing emissions, creating wealth.
Author:German, Laura A.; Karsenty, Alain; Tiani, Anne-Marie
Publication:African Business
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:May 1, 2010
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