Deforestation in Africa | WWF
 
	© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

Africa deforestation

Here's the good news. In a global context, annual deforestation rates are relatively low in Central Africa, compared to other rainforests in Southeast Asia and South America. The bad news is that scientists are not really sure how accurate this figure is. Learn more about deforestation in:
 
	© Brent Stirton / Getty Images
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Congo Basin

The Congo Basin contains 20 per cent of the world’s tropical forests – some 301 million ha – and makes up one of the most important wilderness areas left on Earth.

A mosaic of rivers, forests, savannahs, swamps and flooded forests, the Congo Basin forests span six countries – Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon – that are home to unique species such as mountain and lowland gorillas, bonobos, okapis, chimpanzees and elephants.

Given the extent and rate of forest fragmentation from roadside farming and logging, basic simulations suggest that few large blocks of the region’s relatively undisturbed forest will remain in 50 years. In fact, it is estimated that up to 30% of forests will disappear by 2030.

In West and Central African countries, degradation of forests has already transformed some areas into savanna grasslands or degraded savannas.

The threat

Along with pressures caused by population growth over the last few decades, unregulated and often illegal extraction of timber puts wildlife, local people and economies at risk.

Unrelenting timber demand from around the world – in particular, rapidly rising demand from China -- means that the forests of Congo Basin are being harvested at unprecedented rates. Often, this is done unsustainably or not in accordance with local laws. Road-building by logging companies has also opened up remote areas of forests to poaching and illegal logging.
 

Congo Basin forest facts

  • Congo Basin is home to the world's second largest tropical forest.
  • The Congo Basin supports the highest biological diversity in Africa: over 400 mammal species and more than 1,000 bird species. It is the last stronghold for forest elephant, gorilla, forest buffalo, bongo, and okapi.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, approximately 91,000 km2 of forests were lost in Central Africa, an area about three times the size of Belgium.

The solution

Concerted action that balances the rights of indigenous groups with market demands will be a critical element of conservation in the Congo Basin.

WWF and its partners are working throughout the region to create a network of protected areas to:
  • conserve biodiversity,
  • encourage logging and mining companies to promote good management practices,
  • promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests,
  • support sustainable business practices and financial investments in development and infrastructure projects,
  • improve the livelihoods of indigenous and local peoples,
  • reduce wildlife poaching and the bushmeat trade.
Find out more about WWF's efforts through the Green Heart of Africa initiative.

Stop the illegal chainsaw

 
	© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
As forests shrink, wildlife disappears and economies sputter, one business keeps booming in the Congo Basin forests: logging. Along with pressures caused by population growth over the last decades, unregulated and often illegal extraction of timber puts wildlife, local people and economies at risk.

East Africa

Eastern Africa has a diversity of forest types – vast open miombo woodlands, remnant coastal forests and unique mountain forest in the Eastern Arc. East Africa’s coastline is one of the continent’s most biologically diverse areas, offering a rich mosaic of coral reefs, mangroves, lowland forests and savanna woodlands. Unfortunately, for all its natural resources, Coastal East Africa is seen to have some of the highest rates of poverty in the world.

Although precise figures are hard to calculate in this region, remote sensing analysis suggests that forest loss has been greatest in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya have been reduced to just 10 per cent of their original area.

The threat

In addition to outright land conversion, the region’s forests are under pressure from over-harvesting for timber and fuelwood. Over the past ten years, global demand for the region’s abundant and often undervalued natural resources led by Europe, Asia and particularly China has resulted in trade that is not only unsustainable but sometimes also illegal.

Forest conversion has also wreaked havoc on the region’s biodiversity. “Slash and burn” clearing has destroyed huge tracks of ancient coastal forest and increased human-wildlife conflict. This situation is being exacerbated by unregulated investment in commercial agriculture throughout the coastal region.

Across Africa, oil, gas and mining projects are driving investment in new and improved infrastructure. Forests within these development corridors are vulnerable to loss or severe degradation through conversion to agriculture or colonization by settlers seeking employment and other economic opportunities.

The combination of unsustainable management and uncoordinated externally driven resource extraction, exacerbated by climate change, threatens to destabilize the region’s development and natural resource base.

 

The solution

WWF is working with partners at the local, national and regional level to secure a healthy environment along the coast of East Africa.

This will be achieved by:
  • helping coastal communities sustainably manage natural resources for their own benefit;
  • strengthening national legislation and management systems for sustainable fisheries and logging operations;
  • improving habitat and species conservation;
  • developing effective marine protected areas

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