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Community forestry, Forests and forestry -- Social aspects -- Sub-Saharan Africa, Forest management -- Sub-Saharan Africa


Dry forests account for nearly half of the world’s tropical and subtropical forests and provide a multitude of ecological services. They contribute to hydrological cycles and livestock and wildlife provisioning; and host pollinators and wild plants. They are also important ecological zones for dryland agriculture and pastoral livelihood strategies that support hundreds of millions of people around the world. Dry forests cover large areas and their biomass stores carbon and helps mitigate climate change. Dry forests are particularly important to people in Africa. They provide wood for construction and energy, contribute to local diets with wild fruits, vegetables, nuts, edible insects and bushmeat. Wild, edible plants provide essential nutrients, particularly during times of food scarcity. Yet dry forests are subject to high rates of deforestation and degradation driven mainly by agricultural expansion and growing energy demands. Other challenges include limited information on dry forests (their inventories, changes over time, major drivers of deforestation and recovery, etc.), their biophysical aspects and ecosystem services and the potential roles they could play in increasing the sustainability of crop and livestock farming. Governments, development partners and communities are looking for options to better manage these resources at the landscape level.

Dry forests are complex ecosystems that are not fully understood. Scientific knowledge to better manage dry forests and sustain the livelihoods of people that depend on these ecosystems remains scanty as research to inform policy and practice is still very limited. The knowledge gap is even more pronounced in northeastern Africa, notably Ethiopia and South Sudan where these forest types are important in terms of areas coverage and in supporting rural livelihoods. Ethiopia and South Sudan share histories of political unrest and conflict that have contributed to famines; large-scale land acquisition for investment and agricultural expansion by smallholders are resulting in major and rapid land-use changes in their dry forested areas. Ethiopia’s two decades of peace and stability and its experience in managing its natural resources could inform post-conflict intervention measures in South Sudan.

This study was conducted as an effort to help fill the knowledge gap in dry forest-based livelihoods through a critical review of the available literature. It used publications from CIFOR’s work on dry forests and product marketing in Ethiopia and from other sources, including gray literature. The study assessed the socio-ecological context, including relevant laws and strategies, with an emphasis on the biophysical characteristics of the dryland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan and the major causes of deforestation and forest degradation. Using livelihood systems as an analytical framework, it examined (i) major livelihood strategies; (ii) the contribution of dry forests to livelihoods; (iii) forest product markets and value chains; and (iv) forest and land governance with an emphasis on the relationship between political, economic and resource management policies and the level of degradation of dry forests and their contributions to the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in Ethiopia and South Sudan. It also identified major threats to dry, forest-based livelihoods and key issues for policy, research and practice that need to be addressed to maintain the multifunctionality of dryland forests while also ensuring the well-being of communities dependent on these landscapes.


© 2015 Center for International Forestry Research. Content in this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0),

Working Paper 182

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