Problems facing the forestry industry in East Africa

The following are Problems facing the forestry industry in East Africa

  • Deforestation due to the increased need for land for agriculture and settlement.
  • Wild animals graze freely in the forests leading to their destruction e.g. elephants.
  • Wild fires caused by either lightening or careless farmers leading to loss of extensive forested lands.
  • Scarcity of rainfall and prolonged drought due to increased desertification leading to short and stunted trees.
  • Population increase hence the need to create more land for settlement leading to clearance of forested land.
  • Limited alternative power sources have led to high demand for wood fuel and charcoal hence destruction of forests.
  • Increased urbanization has led to destruction of forests e.g. road construction and industrialisation.
  • Mining and quarrying activities have also led to the destruction of forests due to the need to expose mineral bearing rocks.

  • Occurrence of tree pests and disease that attack specific tree species leading to their depletion.
  • Long gestation of some tree species has also led to shortage of wood fuel.
  • Inadequate labour force to carry out forestry management.
  • Inadequate capital for investment in forestry management.
  • The bulky nature of some tree logs makes it difficult to transport them to saw mills.
  • Inaccessibility of some forests has made it difficult to exploit some of them.
The following are Problems facing the forestry industry in East Africa
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  • Corruption and embezzlement of forest funds by some forestry officials.
  • Limited valuable commercial tree species which leads to importation that is very expensive.
  • Insecurity and wars due to rebel activity has led to destruction of forests that are used as hide-outs for rebels.
  • Unfavorable government policies e.g. giving forested land to private investors to set up plantations hence clearance of forests.
  • Low levels of technology for exploiting forests e.g. use of axes and pangas.

  • Hostility of local communities towards forest staff hence creating insecurity for the forest guards.

Solutions to the above problems

  • Offering licenses to lumbering companies and individuals to reduce deforestation.
  • Evicting encroachers on forested land e.g. the Bakiga and Balaalo migrants in Kibaale forest reserve were evicted by government.
  • Formation of a ministry to supervise forests and other aspects of the environment i.e. Ministry of Lands, water & Environment.
  • Setting up Non Governmental Organisations to control environmental mismanagement e.g. National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
  • Training and equipping forest managers with modern skills on how to look after forests.
  • Establishment of forest reserves where lumbering is prohibited e.g. Kibaale forestry reserve.
  • Encouraging re-afforestation and afforestation programs e.g. cut one tree and plant two trees.
  • Educating the masses about the dangers of deforestation.
  • Practicing agro-forestry to ensure extensive tree growth by the farmers too.
  • Encouraging the use of alternative sources of power e.g. solar energy to reduce forest destruction for wood fuel.

  • Encouraging use of alternative building and construction materials e.g. plastics, metal and glass and reduce the demand for timber.
  • Campaigning against degazetting forested land by government.
  • Growing of quick and fast maturing species to ensure constant supply of forest products. 

Effects of deforestation on the environment

  • Reduction and lowering of water table due to reduced rainfall totals.
  • Global warming and increased world temperatures due to reduced cloud cover.

  • Mass wasting and soil erosion along the slopes due to absence of trees to trap the soil.
  • Reduction of wildlife due to destruction of their natural which reduces foreign exchange.
  • Loss of soil fertility due to severe erosion leading to low agricultural output.
  • Desertification may arise leading to expansion of deserts.
  • Flooding may occur due to mass wasting and soil erosion due to deposition of soil materials in the valley.
  • Silting of river valleys due to increased erosion along slopes.

  • Shortage of food leading to famine due to less agricultural output.
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It is mainly done by the forestry department.

The forestry department looks after two types of forests and these are the indigenous and the exotic forests.

Most of the indigenous forests which are under the forestry department are forest reserves.

Forest reserves are forests set aside by the forestry department where people are not allowed to cut down trees anyhow. These are four different purposes.

Forest reserves in Malawi are found throughout the country especially in the northern part of the country.

The found in indigenous forests are hardwood trees, they do not grow in pure stands, and they have slow growth and do not grow straight.


  • They protect the catchment area
  • They help reduce soil erosion
  • Forest reserves provide traditional medicine
  • They are homes of wild animals
  • They provide people with wild fruits
  • They are tourist attraction
  • They provide oxygen to the atmosphere through photosynthesis
  • They provide materials for bridges and roofing of houses e.g. timber
  • Most of the indigenous trees are very hard to work on and have a slow growth
  • Forest guards have been employed to reduce un necessary cutting down of trees
  • Most of the exotic type trees are from Europe and USA
  • Plantations have been established in high rainfall areas of Malawi
  • The areas where the plantation are found are Nyika, Vipya, Mlanje and Nkhata bay
  • Soft wood trees have an advantage over hard wood trees because they are soft to work on, have a fast growth and grow in pure stands


  • Late burning of the forests
  • Deforestation through charcoal burning and visoso type of agriculture
  • Diseases and pests which attack the tress
  • Frequent droughts or unreliable rainfall


  • Allowing people to export timber to other countries
  • Employment of forest guards to control deforestation
  • Encouraging early burning of the forests
  • Establishment of the forestry department to control forestry
  • Establishments of sawmills in the entire plantation in Malawi
  • Introduction of Licenses to all those willing to burn charcoal or cut timber
  • Introduction of stiffer penalties to all those found cutting timber or production charcoal without permission
  • To encourage people to plant trees during the tree planting day


  • For the constant supply of timber
  • Promotion of tourism
  • Protection of the catchment areas
  • Protection of the soil from the Sun’s rays
  • To reduce soil erosion in the country.


Zimbabwe has large areas under savanna woodlands

These woodlands provide the people of Zimbabwe with forest needs e.g. charcoal and fuel wood

They savanna woodlands have limited supply of timber due to the following reasons:

  • Few savanna trees yield timber that is commercially valuable
  • Timber yielding plants such as teak, mukwa or muchibi do not grow in pure stand
  • The rate of growth of trees is slow.

Zimbabwe’s indigenous yielding timber trees are found in the following places:

  • North of Bulawayo on the Kalahari sands
  • On the slopes of Chimanimani in the Eastern Boarder Highlands

Zimbabwe’s exotic trees are planted in the following places:

  • North east of Bulawayo on the water-holding Kalahari sands
  • Staple Ford.

The Eastern Boarder Highlands are suited for the growing of exotic trees because of the following reasons:

  • Have a high annual rainfall of over 1,000mm
  • Have cool temperatures which are ideal for the exotic trees like pines which are temperate trees
  • Have reduced annual evaporation rates
  • They are a highland area.
  • The establishment of the expensive plantations has enabled the country to set up a pulp and paper mill at Mutare.


There are a number of natural and human factors which influence the growth of vegetation. These are:-

  • Careless cutting down of trees especially for fuel wood
  • Clearance of vegetation for agricultural purposes
  • Clearance of vegetation to accommodate urban development and expansion.
  • Destruction of vegetation by fires caused by people
  • Rainfall-water is responsible for the survival of all plant life.
  • Soil- The medium ii which plants grow
  • Temperature-This determines the environment in which plants grow because certain temperature levels promote plants growth whilst others retard it or even prevent it altogether.
  • The main controlling factor is climate, especially the rainfall and temperature.
  • The nutrients and water essential for plant’s growth are stored in the soil


Deforestation means the removal or destruction of forest and woodland. The reasons for deforestation are as follows:-

  • Population increase demands that more forests and woodlands are cleared for timber, farming, building of houses and wood fuel.
  • For instance, the most useful species of trees such as Msasa were rapidly cut down because they are hard woods which make good fire wood
  • Large-scale land clearance for commercial agriculture. This affected roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe’s total area or nearly 100,000km.
  • Increasingly demand for wood in industry and in urban areas e.g. for tobacco curing, fuel in towns, pit props in mining, sleepers for railways, and furniture.
  • Destruction of wood lands by animals, especially by elephants which were much more widespread.
  • Fire: man’s use has been described earlier on and fires caused by lightning have added to the areas destroyed.


  • Very few of these trees can be used commercially because:-
  • Different species are mixed and scattered making it costly to exploit them.
  • The trees are often gnarled or stunted.
  • Some of the trees have sometimes been damaged by fire; in addition, their sapwood is often attacked by borers or their branches broken by fruit gatherers.
  • The density per hectare of trees is low and decreasing as more trees are being chopped down.
  • The rate of growth for most species is very slow.
  • Only one area of indigenous forest is commercially useful. The umgusa or teak forest of Matabeleland


There are many of these but the most obvious ones are:-

  • Areas experience reduced rainfall and increase in average temperature.
  • Reduction in the amount of rainfall and water supply. Low rainfall is received due to low transpiration.
  • Shortage of wood fuel, tree around urban areas of Zimbabwe e.g. Harare, Bulawayo and people travel long distances to look for fire wood.
  • There is a reduction in the quality of the environment, it loses its beauty.
  • There is general destruction of biodiversity, few trees survive bush fire.
  • Wildlife like birds and animals loose homes when trees are cleared.


  • Afforestation and reforestation programmes
  • Allowing people to plant trees during the tree planting day
  • Alternative renewable sources of energy such as solar energy, wind and HEP
  • Educating people on the importance of caring for forest resources
  • Fire control
  • Planting more trees for fuel on existing agricultural land e.g. on waste land, grassed contour strips, along river banks
  • Planting more trees in rural and urban woodlands
  • Practicing of agro forestry
  • Restricting the types of trees to be cut
  • Stiffer punishments to all those found cutting down trees unnecessarily
  • Using wood fuel more efficiently, e.g. by improved stove designs like the tsotso stove


They include the following trees:

  • Acacia
  • Mahogany
  • Cedar
  • Msasa

The central highland veld grew deciduous forests and tree savanna consisting:-

  • Msasa
  • Mubvumira
  • Mupaka (tree wisteria)
  • Muzeze ( African wattle)
  • Munyuna (yellow wood)
  • Mufuti
  • Mutobwe (snotapel)
  • Teak
  • Mukwa
  • Mucluibs.


Reforestation means the planting of trees on land where there was once forests or woodland which has been destroyed

Each year some 750,000 families use 3.6 million tones of wood for fire wood, building and fencing poles. To replace this many villages have planted eucalyptus trees

The total area of eucalyptus is only about 3,700 ha and 300 ha are planted additionally each year

It has been estimated that, to secure Zimbabwe’s wood fuel supplies, a planting program of 10,000 ha a year for ten years increased to 40,000 ha a year until the year 2000 would bring the total areas under eucalyptus trees to 600,000 ha.

The National Tree Planting Day (every first Saturday in December) introduced by government since independence is a national wide collective effort to plant trees which will also help meet the great demand for wood


  • Availability of markets. The higher the demand for trees and their by- products, the more prosperous lumbering becomes
  • The composition of the trees, that is, whether the trees are found in pure stands (trees of the same species found in one area
  • The depletion of forest resources can also affect the exploitation of forests because if there are no accompanying reforestation Aforestation programs; there will be no trees to cut
  • The location of the forests
  • The size of the trees. This determines whether the trees are easy to cut and transport to either saw milling plants or ports of exports



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