Policy Briefs


Making Sub-Saharan Forests Work for People and Nature - Policy approaches in a changing global environment

However diverse the forests and people of sub-Saharan Africa may be, they share many commonalities. They face the challenges of alleviating poverty, limiting deforestation and the degradation of forest and tree resources, reversing land degradation, coping with water scarcity, and restraining desertification. Many of these problems are aggravated by climate change and the global economic crisis, as reflected in rising food and energy prices. At the same time, tremendous opportunities exist in the form of growing markets for bio-energy and environmental services such as carbon sequestration and protecting water resources and biodiversity. To secure its future, sub- Saharan Africa must seize the moment and find opportunities in these markets to diversify livelihoods and safeguard the welfare of its people. This requires the sustainable management and use of forests.

This policy brief is a call for action. It focuses on three global drivers of change - climate change, payments for environmental services, and emerging energy markets - that will likely shape sub-Saharan Africa’s future development and her forests. These drivers affect a range of social, economic and environmental parameters including income and food security, employment, migration, social security, and biodiversity, as well as structures and institutions within and beyond the forestry sector. When these new global drivers of change intersect with local drivers, such as demand for food pushing the farmland frontiers into forests, they introduce new challenges that require innovative responses. Such responses will differ between humid and dry regions and even country by country.

This policy brief seeks to provide options on how countries in sub-Saharan Africa and their forests can respond strategically to these global drivers, summarized as key messages and policy recommendations.

The policy brief is a product of participatory brainstorming and review based on scientific evidence by about 20 specialists and researchers from Africa and beyond between April 2008 and early 2009. Generous support was received from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. 


  • Yemi Katerere
  • Peter A. Minang
  • Heidi Vanhanen

Published by

  • Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (WFSE) of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)
  • World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA)

August 2009

ISBN 978-92-9059-256-3

wfse-pol-brief-africa.pdf0.93 Mi