Low budget forests in Africa


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Every two years, FAO publishes a report on the Situation of the World’s Forests. Last week they launched the 2003 report in Rome. One of the most interesting chapters looks at government spending for forestry during the 1990s in 32 countries in Africa, including all the major timber producing countries except Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and South Africa.

The study shows that African governments spend very little on their forests – on average only 82 cents (US) per hectare. Half of the governments spent less than $6 million in total on forestry in 1999. Coastal West African nations spend more per hectare since they are small but have important forest sectors, whereas countries in central and southern Africa tend to spend less.

Not only is spending low, in many countries it is actually declining. Of the 16 countries that provided information, public spending on forestry adjusted for inflation, fell in ten countries, rose in five, and remained unchanged in one.

Foreign donors contributed about 40% of the money African governments spend on forests, and in ten of the twenty countries that have data foreign donors provided more than 60%. But that support is also declining. It fell from $132 million in 1995 to $110 million in 1999.

Taxes and fees from forestry generated $82 million dollars in public revenue in the countries studied, two-thirds of which went to the governments of Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. On average, governments only managed to collect $2.42 for each cubic meter of timber logs, and the situation does not seem to be getting much better.

Several weeks from now Africa’s Ministers of Forestry and the Environment will come together in Cameroon to discuss how to improve forest law enforcement and governance. To do that will require the political will to take on powerful groups that violate the law. But it will also take money. This new report from FAO provides a sobering reminder of how little such money there is to go around.

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Further reading

Click here to download the free electronic copy of this paper in English

You can also find more information on this study of African forest finances at the following web page: www.fao.org/forestry/finance

The entire 2003 Situation of the World’s Forests is available at: www.fao.org/forestry/index.jsp (click where it says "SOFO 2003 now available on-line"). (William Sunderlin, Sven Wunder, and Arild Angelsen from CIFOR wrote the chapter on forests and poverty.)

To send comments or queries to the authors of the African finance study you can also write Adrian Whiteman at mailto:Adrian.Whiteman@fao.org

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