Cover Image
close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder10. Managing the natural resource base
View the documentProduction versus protection
View the documentForests
View the documentNatural resource management in farming areas
View the documentDryland and range areas
View the documentWater
View the documentCommon elements
View the documentThe role of governments
View the documentNational environmental action plans

Common elements

There area number of common elements to the recommended strategies and approaches for conserving and sustainably managing Africa's natural resources, and a number of basic lessons from the, admittedly limited, experience to date:

· The overall policy and legal framework must be consistent with the conservation objective. For example, local communities need to be authorized to participate in the management and benefits of protected areas and the wildlife and other resources they contain. Resistance to this concept remains strong in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, as governments generally believe that benefits reaped from conservation areas should accrue to all citizens. Compromises will have to be made. For example, taxes can be levied on local community receipts from tourism, so that benefits may be shared more widely.

· Social and institutional factors constrain implementation of community-based conservation strategies. The major problems are the general weakness of community organizations and the vastly unequal distribution of authority between the national and local levels. Most local communities in forest, range, and wilderness areas are poorly organized and difficult to organize. Outside assistance is nearly always necessary.

· Only in a few cases can protected areas be expected to generate sufficient revenues from nonexploitative uses (such as ecotourism) to provide significant local income or to support significant rural development. In most cases, external financing will be needed on a long-term basis. The national and international communities must contribute to the cost of maintaining the national and global heritage represented by the areas being protected.

· Creation of an institutional and management capacity in government is a difficult process. This is rarely, if ever, the highest priority of governments; as a result, government agencies charged with managing natural resources are usually neglected and financially strained. Again, international assistance is essential.

In the absence of agricultural intensification outside the areas to be protected, conservation efforts are bound to fait Only rapid gains in output per unit of land will induce fast growing populations to stay out of the remaining intact forests and other ecosystems that should remain undisturbed.

Conservation of biodiversity depends directly upon preservation of natural habitats, particularly tropical primary moist forests which contain the greatest diversity of species outside of certain marine environments. Habitat destruction is the greatest cause of extinction of species overall For species that are acutely endangered by commercial exploitation, additional protection is needed in the form of controls on harvesting and on international trade. Such controls can only be effective if the governments of both producing and consuming countries are committed to enforcing them.

The single most important factor to ensure the preservation of landbased natural ecosystems will be meeting the demand for food, wood, and other agricultural and forest products on a sustainable basis. Soil and water resources must be protected by protecting important watersheds—by maintaining natural forests and, where these are already degraded, by replanting or allowing natural regeneration to take place The critical issue of meeting the needs for woodfuels and timber must be addressed from both the production and the demand side. While commercial logging of remaining primary moist forests should be greatly reduced (if not banned entirely), because the available evidence indicates that it cannot be sustainable, there must be a major increase in resources for the sustainable production of fuelwood, lumber, and pulpwood. This must come from farm forestry, as well as from plantations and well-managed production forests located in areas where the original forest system has already been substantially altered by logging. At the same time, energy conservation must be promoted, both through economic policy measures such as appropriate pricing and through the development and extension of technical innovations.

The most important element is agricultural intensification outside of forests and wilderness areas. Without it, Africa's forests and wilderness areas stand little, if any, chance of survival in the longer run. The ultimate environmental collapse can be postponed by reducing the rate of population growth. The preferred option combines maximum agricultural intensification with sharply curtailing population growth and far more determined and effective management of environmental resources.