Sustainable trade and management of forest products and services in the COMESA region: an issue paper uri icon

abstract

  • A REPORT ON sustainable trade and management of forest products and services in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region comes at a strategic time. Africaâ??s economy is projected to grow at its best rate since the 1970s, and African policymakers are increasingly confident that they are developing the basis for sustained growth. Following the launch of the Free Trade Area (FTA), intra-COMESA trade has been increasing at an average annual rate of 30%. The COMESA region is consolidating its FTA and is about to launch the Customs Union and the COMESA Common Investment Area (CCIA), aimed at creating the required policy environment for enhanced regional trade and economic development. A host of current initiativesâ??the World Bankâ??s World Development Report 2008, measures proposed by the Blair Commission, the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa and the European Unionâ??s Economic Partnership Agreementsâ??are placing emphasis on economic development through expanded trade and market-oriented agriculture (Commission for Africa 2005, World Bank 2007b). Trade in timber and non-timber forest products is an important contributor to agricultural and economic development through the revenue it generates for government and the income it provides to rural households. In select ecoregions, forestry is the highest income earning sector for rural households. While currently a largely uncaptured opportunity, trade in forest ecosystem services (carbon, water, biodiversity) has the potential to add new value to the sector. The impetus to expand trade and investment highlights the need for appropriate policies to capture the true economic value of forests while ensuring the sustainable utilisation of forest products and services. This is particularly true given that growth in trade in forestry and other sectors that affect forests can bring substantial social and environmental costs, which require the concerted attention of government. Trade in a range of forest products from the COMESA region is already globally significant. Member countries are among the leading African exporters of timber and non-timber forest products. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the fifth largest exporter of tropical logs. Sudanâ??s share of global supplies of gum Arabic increased from 44% to 63% from 1999 to 2001, with annual exports in the 1991â??2002 period ranging from 17 061 to 34 162 metric tonnes (Muller and Okoro 2004). Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya are leading exporters in a number of valuable flavours and fragrances (frankinsense, opopanax, myrrh) as well as khat. Sudan and Ethiopia are the worldâ??s largest producers of Olabanum resins (obtained from Boswellia spp). Export from the two countries is in the order of 5 000 tonnes annually (Ibrahim 2002). COMESA member countries Madagascar, Kenya, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo are also significant exporters of medicinal bark from Prunus africana . COMESA is a global leader in the production of vanilla (dominated by Madagascar) and ylang-ylang for perfumes (dominated by Comoros). Coffee and tea are major agroforestry crops, and several COMESA member countries (Kenya and to a lesser extent Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are significant producers of woodcarvings. Domestic markets for wood fuels (firewood and charcoal) provide an inexpensive source of energy for Africaâ??s poor while creating employment opportunities near urban centres. In addition to its trade value, forestry provides critical support functions to rural livelihoods. In Sudan, forestry contributes 71% of national energy supplies, 14% of rural employment, 33â??70% of the national feed requirement (depending on season) and up to 30% of household income (Abdelazim personal communication). In Zambia, the production and marketing of wood fuel, largely an informal activity carried out by poor households, is estimated at US$5 billion and employs more than 400 000 people

publication date

  • 2008
  • 2008