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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder4. The Nexus of population growth, agricultural stagnation, and environmental degradation
View the documentThe main linkages
View the documentTraditional crop cultivation and livestock husbandry methods
View the documentLand and tree tenure systems and the Nexus
View the documentDeforestation, fuelwood, and the Nexus
View the documentLogging
View the documentNotes
View the documentAppendix to chapter 4


Commercial logging also takes a heavy toll—in large part because of inappropriate logging policies and practices. Commercial logging by itself is responsible for only about 10 to 20 percent of forest destruction in SubSaharan Africa, but it has been considerably more destructive in some countries, such as Cd'Ivoire It is, in fact, probably not so much the quantity logged but rather the procedures used that is the chief cause of forest destruction.

Logging practices are rarely monitored or controlled, and abusive logging practices are so common that they have become the norm (Repetto 1988a; Spears 19&8). Replanting is rare, because there is neither an incentive nor a requirement to do it Concession agreements usually require neither replanting nor maintenance of concession areas as a forest Most are also too short in duration to provide any inducement to the concessionaires to manage the concession areas for sustainable Iong-term multicycle production. Logging concessions are often awarded as a form of political patronage and abandoned once mined. Stumpage fees tend to be very low, further encouraging extensive and destructive logging (Grut, Gray and Egli 1991). In some cases, governments subsidize logging through tax and duty exemptions and through governmental financing of roads and infrastructure in forests. Subsidies provided to wood processing industries have the same effect Areas closer to ports appear to be most abused, with high transport costs being probably the most important factor protecting inland forests against logging in parts of Central Africa.

There is widespread agreement that logging in tropical forests, as now practiced, is not consistent with the sustainability of rain forest ecosystems. It has been argued that logging itself, if properly undertaken, need not necessarily destroy the forests However, recent surveys suggest that there are no sustained-yield forest management systems practiced on any sizeable scale in West and Central Africa (Goodland 199' :14; Besong and Wencus 1992). Even selective logging for certain species and/or trees of certain size disrupts these fragile ecosystems with their multitude of highly specialized life farms and of intricate multiple symbiotic relationships so severely that they will not survive intact. Although less directly linked to the nexus, population growth will stimulate more logging, with its significantly negative impact on the environment. Through the environmental impact may come declines in rainfall, increases in water runoff and, hence, declines in agricultural yields (see Chapter 2).

Logging almost invariably leads to a second — and more damaging —phase of forest destruction. Logging roads provide access for landhungry settlers into areas previously difficult to enter. Moving along and spreading out from the logging roads, landless or shifting cultivators rapidly take over logged-over forest areas, clear the remaining vegetation, and convert the land to agricultural uses usually at very low levels of productivity. This accelerates and expands the process of deforestation begun by the logging companies. Logging concessionaires ordinarily acquire rights to log from governments, ignoring the longstanding customary land and forest rights of forest dwellers. These rights, once eroded, are not respected by new settlers penetrating along the logging roads.

In virtually all countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the institutions charged with managing and protecting national forest resources tend to be very weak. Forest guards and rangers often have neither the operating resources nor the training to monitor what is happening in the forest. They are even less equipped and prepared to regulate logging companies, deal with poachers, assist forest dwellers, and prevent encroachment by land-hungry settlers. These institutional weaknesses are so grave that fanner encroachment and logging occur on a significant scale even in many national parks. Forest services have little capacity to plan, to levy taxes, to undertake land use surveys, or to deal with land use disputes in forests (Besong and Wencus 1992).

The causes of the logging problem are related to those of the fuelwood problem. Forests have been widely regarded as reservoirs of free goods to be mined. Governments have shared in the bounty with private loggers through stumpage fees and taxes. However, once the forest disappears, the nontimber product; and the environmental services it provides disappear with it. The forest is disappearing fast.