Thursday, January 6, 2011

Replanting Angola

Angola is listed as having one of the largest areas of planted forest in Africa, composed for the most part of eucalyptus (85 percent), pine and, to a lesser extent, cypress.  The land considered forested covers about 53 million hectares, about 35% of the country's total land area. However, the area of forests considered economically productive is estimated at 2 373 000 ha, about 2% of the country's area.

Most of the plantations belong to private enterprises (mainly the Railways and the Cellulose Company), while the remainder are State property, managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  The Benguela Railway's eucalyptus plantations in the center of the country are some of the largest in all of Africa, originally planted to provide firewood for their steam locomotives.

Unfortunately, and conversely, Angola has an estimated deforestation rate of 5%, one of the highest rates in southern Africa. Zaire province in the north has the highest national rate of deforestation and few forested areas remain in that region. Most of the plantation areas have been degredated as a result of burning, felling for fuelwood and charcoal production, pest and disease problems, and soil degradation.

With an acknowledgement of the need to assess and address the forestry needs after many years of environmental distress from the civil war, the Angolan government recently invited the United States Forest Service (USFS) to Angola to provide forestry evaluations and technical assistance in rehabilitating the resource.  Tree planting campaigns have been initiated in schools and other municipal departments in efforts to replant and protect the forestry resources.

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