10 October, 2017
Developing sustainable forest ecosystems in Africa will help boost its economies
Humanity has long appreciated forests for the energy, food and medicine they provide, and as a source of wood products for construction and other purposes. But the role of forests in supporting agriculture, preserving biodiversity, protecting water supplies, creating jobs, increasing domestic GDP and moderating the impact of climate change are less well-understood.
It is an industry often crucial to the well-being of people in large parts of Africa. Angola, for example, has a total forest area of 60 million hectares, representing 20% of its total land area including a rich variety of flora and fauna. This is combined with relatively stable governance as well as various measures the government has implemented to improve Angola's forest ecosystem such as creating ties between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Industry, and the Ministry of Water and Energy. The country's exotic plantation area is small (0.2% of forest area) but with significant potential for the economy.
Located in the Planalto region of Angola, Quantum Global Group, through its US$250m Timber Fund, has acquired 18 land concessions leased from the government of Angola. The objective is to manage and rehabilitate the old Angolan Government eucalyptus pulpwood plantations, with an aim to build an integrated forest industry in the provinces of Huambo, Benguela, Huila and Bie to develop the country's forest ecosystem.
Natural resources have a large role to play in Africa, specifically the timber industry due to its enormous potential. Through the Timber Fund, we have opted to plant carefully selected eucalyptus species, given its many uses and reputation as one of the best options for curbing deforestation of natural woodland in Africa.
Eucalyptus is not only sustainable but also plays a driving role in the supply of raw materials for the manufacturing industry, whilst presenting tremendous benefits for local communities. The sale of wood will be used for both national and regional exports, including residential and other basic needs. In addition to the creation of a medium-term pipeline for products such as electricity poles, it will also serve as a long-term basis for the development of a timber processing cluster and a pulp and paper industry which is in high demand across Africa.
Almost every African state today is a net importer of wood products. The group's Timber Fund will create a replacement for expensive imports. Such an investment in a country like Angola can mean the difference between expensive timber imports and medium-term self-sufficiency (in seven to eight years). And after the construction of a new forestry industry, the prospects for a successful export trade are already very promising. Intra-regional trade will be another important component in exporting. Neighbouring South Africa for example, now one of the only African wood exporters - is likely to become an importer of wood products over the next decade.
The company's Timber Fund has several footings across the entire chain of forestry management in Angola including plant trials, the management of new tree nurseries, sustainable plantation management and harvesting. The manufacturing capabilities directly influence the industrial benefits which are both profitable and sustainable, a twofold value. Planting is typically the most expensive phase of reforestation projects, which makes crop trials a key part of every programme to save costs in the long-term. Avoiding short-term volatility is much less important than avoiding large permanent loss.
Attitudes to forestry are starting to change in Africa, including the value of old-growth forests which provide a range of vital, but less tangible, services to the economy. Cultural influences and legal frameworks play a major role in shaping the success of any industry in Africa, operating within a sovereign territory and among local communities. Specific species such as eucalyptus, suit Africa's limited technological resources and yield more financial reward than other tree crops. Not only is it a key driver of economic and social development, but it also provides us with one of the best options for contributing towards sustainable forestry in Africa.
South Sudan is an example of a country not currently benefiting from the economic and environmental benefits of having a sustainable forest ecosystem. Over 10% of the country's land is covered by forestry, but South Sudan currently has no forestry policy in place, leaving opportunities open for illegal loggers and an insufficient ability to benefit from an industry that can increase food security, build sustainable, agriculture-based livelihoods and positively impact the country's ecosystem. A 2010 study conducted by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), estimated that up to 2,776 square kilometres of forests and other wooded land were being lost annually in South Sudan.
Considering all the above aspects, we are confident that Quantum Global's investment within the timber sector in Angola has the potential to be one of the continent's leading forestry projects in terms of production, management, and technologies for eucalyptus forest plantations, including the various ways that it will positively contribute to building forest industry clusters.
Trees take time to grow, and creating a forestry industry will not happen overnight. The group's aim is to build a sustainable forest ecosystem to provide greater community benefits in the near-to-long term. And it is projects such as these which take advantage of Africa's vast land potential, throwing into the mix sound forestry practices and a greater appreciation of the real economic value of a sustainable forest eco-system. But, with all these elements in place, we see a positive outlook for flourishing forestry ecosystems in Africa.
Source: How we made it in Africa