Deforestation in the Green Heart of Africa

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Forest clearance for "Socapalm" or Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantation. Kribi, Cameroon
© WWF-Canon / N.C. TURNER

Slow by world standards, too fast by local ones

Here's the good news. In a global context, annual deforestation rates are relatively low in Central Africa1  - 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.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Central Africa lost approximately 91,000 km2 to deforestation in the 10 years between 1990 and 2000. The size of the region's forests was estimated at 2,403,000 km2 in 2000.2

Given the extent and rate of forest fragmentation from roadside farming and logging, basic simulations suggest that few large blocks of relatively undisturbed forest will remain in 50 years.3

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.

What are the impacts of deforestation?
  • loss of wood for the forest industry
  • biodiversity loss
  • desertification
  • climate change
  • changes to ecosystems and the climate by altering local rainfall and other parts of the water cycle.
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1 CARPE. 2001. Deforestation in Central Africa: Significance and Scale of the Deforestation. Congo River Basin Information Series. Issue Brief #6.
2 UNEP. 2002. Forests: Africa. Global Environmental Outlook (GEO3).
3 CARPE. 2001. If the Forest Disappeared What Would We Lose and What might We Gain? Congo River Basin Information Series. Issue Brief #8.

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