MAPUTO, The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have signed an agreement valued at six million US dollars to support sustainable forestry in Mozambique.

The World Bank said in a statement that the aim of the agreement, which was signed Monday, was to support the government of Mozambique in its efforts to strengthen the sustainable management of its forest sector, promote good governance, improve forest concession systems, and enable private sector participation.

The senior forestry officer at the FAO, Thais Juvenal, said: We will work on implementing a model for the management of the large forest estate to generate socio-economic benefits for all, while securing the long-term sustainability of the resources.”

The agreement is a component of the 47 million USD support approved in March by the World Bank for the government’s Mozambique Forest Investment Project (MozFIP), which is a programme to counter the country’s rapid deforestation and create alternative livelihoods for rural communities.

The Mozambican government has taken several steps to stop illegal logging and to stimulate local industry. A specialist with the World Bank, Andre Aquino, explained: Mozambique has engaged in several reforms in the past two years, and has taken some bold actions. The export of logs was banned as a way to stimulate national value addition.

“An independent law enforcement agency was created to oversee forests and seize illegal logs to be publicly auctioned or used for school desks and chairs. Incentives, like certification giving access to new international markets and higher prices, were proposed to local enterprises promoting the sustainable use of forest assets.”

However, the World Bank has identified low capacity as a key barrier to the implementation of these reforms. In particular, it argues that modern forest management requires knowledge in biology, ecology, economics, markets law and policies. Moreover, it necessitates keeping abreast of recent technologies that are rapidly changing the sector, such as the use of high-resolution satellite images to guide forest management and support government’s law enforcement efforts.”

The support offered by the World Bank and the FAO was welcomed by Xavier Sakambuera, the national Director of Forests in the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, who pointed out that forests can be a significant source of income and a key contributor to the economy.

“They can generate benefits to the global community by harbouring unique and threatened habitats and by stocking billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

However, Sakambuera warned that the current management model needs to be thoroughly reformed and for that our government needs state of the art expertise and continued technical assistance.

The implementation of the project will begin this month, and will include the preparation of a national forest programme, the establishment of a geo-referenced forest information system, and the strengthening of the capacity of the national and provincial directorates of forests.

The Forest Investment Project focuses on the Quirimbas National Park in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and the Gile National Reserve in the central province of Zambezia.

Mozambique has 40 million hectares of natural forests, of which about 27 million hectares are productive forests. There are 118 species of tree that can produce timber, but illegal logging is threatening some of them with extinction. The World Bank estimates that the country’s forests are disappearing at a rate of 0.35 per cent per year, representing an annual loss of about 140,000 hectares.