Close to half of the African continent is covered by drylands, spread over 15 countries of the Sahel, and 15 countries of East and Southern Africa. These ecosystems support over 60% of Africa's people with a wide range of environmental goods and services, many of which are derived from the region's dryland forests and woodlands. The value of dryland forests stretches beyond the products they provide; beyond timber and even non-timber forest products (NTFPs). There is increasing global recognition of the multiple ecosystem services provided by forests. In addition to sequestering carbon, forests provide services related to the protection of watersheds and biodiversity.
If properly sustainably managed, Africa's dryland forests have the potential to contribute to economic development, poverty reduction and food security. However, these ecosystems are exposed to a range of acute threats. Environmental challenges including encroaching, desertification and climate change-related phenomena are further compounded by governance-related ones.
Moreover, the contribution of forests and woodland resources to regional economies and livelihoods is not sufficiently recognised. This has led to the marginalisation of the forestry sector throughout the region.
These very real challenges threaten to obscure a repository of best practice examples that exist across the dryland forests of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.