Forest resources in Mozambique have contributed to socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation and critical to the country’s social, environmental and economic well-being . About 70% of the Mozambican territory (54.8 million hectares) is covered by vegetation of different categories, of which 40.1 million hectares (51%) are forests and about 14.7 million hectares covering 19% of the country correspond to woody formations (shrubs and shifting forests). Of the total forest cover 22.5 million hectares are dense forests, 16.4 million hectares open forests, 802 thousand hectares open forests in wetlands and 357 thousand hectares mangrove forests .
Forest exploitation has faced major challenges to maintain its long-term sustainability with high demand driven by the international market . Forests provide significant ecosystem services of both local and global value, particularly climate and water regulation, carbon sequestration and storage, watershed protection, reduction of soil erosion, as well as habitat to globally important species. The total above- and below-ground carbon stock in Mozambique is estimated at more than 5.2 billion tCO2, 2 Forests are the habitat for biodiversity, including endemic species such as the Gorongosa Pygmy Chameleon and the Vincent’s Bush Squirrel .
The country loses 267,000 ha of forests per year from 2003 to 2013, and is estimated to have lost 8 million ha since the 1970s . The current rate of deforestation result is around 46 million tons of carbon dioxide being emitted every year into the atmosphere, and accounting for 69% of Mozambique’s overall greenhouse gas emissions .
Forests are lost in Mozambique mainly due to small-scale agriculture, biomass energy needs, and unsustainable forest management. Forest conversion to agriculture is the dominant driver of deforestation contributing 65% of total deforestation. Shifting subsistence cultivation, including slash-and-burn agriculture with its uncontrolled spreading of fires, is the main driver of deforestation in the country. Urban expansion and infrastructure development lead to 12% forest loss .
Forest extraction for biomass energy, particularly charcoal for urban use, and unsustainable timber harvests, including illegal logging, result in forest degradation as well .
Indirect drivers that contribute to deforestation and forest degradation in Mozambique include land tenure insecurity, inadequate land use planning and demographic pressure. Land tenure insecurity discourages investments in long-term assets with limited to no immediate returns, including forests and other natural resources. This is made worse by demographic pressure, particularly when agriculturally based population density increases in and close to forested areas.
Key policies and governance approach
Mozambique has a number of laws and regulations covering forest management, wood harvesting, processing and trade. The Land Law and the Forestry and Wildlife Law govern and protect forest resource stakeholders by recognizing community rights to land and makes community consultation compulsory when assigning rights of use to a third party. Communities can utilize any forest product for their own consumption, but they are not allowed to commercialize these products without a license .
The laws also establish the basic principles and rules on the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity within conservation areas. They regulate the management of conservation areas, protection zones, recovery and restoration of biological diversity, management of endangered species, resettlement and rates, and setting respective inspection and sanction regimes.
The Forest and Wildlife Law, more specifically, regulate the forest, timber and wildlife sectors by placing forests and wildlife under State ownership, allocating long-term concessions and short term licenses. The law promotes the establishment of forest industries, and increasing exports of manufactured products. It delineates the rights and benefits of forest dependent local communities, covering subsistence level use of the resources, participation in the co-management of forest resources, community consultation and approval prior to allocation of exploitation rights to third parties. It also outlines development benefits derived from timber production under a concession regime .
There are several other laws that have relevance to the forest sector, including those covering trade, transport and taxes .
Successes and remaining challenges
The forest sector in Mozambique suffers from weak governance, further fueling forest loss. Forestry governance is weak, particularly around implementation of laws and regulations. Forest law enforcement is absent and forest crimes often go unpunished. Illegal logging is widespread. Forgone tax revenues were estimated at US$540 million between 2003 and 2013 from unreported wood exports (mostly logs), mainly to Asian markets .
Initiatives and Development Plans
Mozambique is engaged in various initiatives and has signed conventions at the regional and international levels with the aim of promoting the sustainable management of its forest ecosystems and organizing against illegal use of forest resources .
For instance, Mozambique signed the Emission Reduction Payment Agreements with the Carbon Fund of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility worth US$50 million to support the country’s ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions from its forest sector. With this Emission Reduction Payment Agreements Mozambique is implementing its Emission Reductions Payment Project in nine districts of the Zambézia province until the end of 2024 .
Moreover, to improve natural resource management and promote rural development, the World Bank is supporting the government through the Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) Portfolio to sustainably manage natural resources and support the communities that depend on them .
Mozambique is also engaged in a pilot project for REDD+ in two provinces, including Zambézia, establishing a series of new management and monitoring programmes such as promotion of conservation and climate smart agriculture; promotion of key sustainable supply chains (agriculture and forests); development of multi-purpose plantations and restoration of degraded lands; strengthening protected areas management and the implementation of the Zambézia Landscape Programme. The programme is curbing deforestation by supporting sustainable multi-purpose plantations that provide local jobs, supply wood for energy, construction and industry, and at the same time reforest these landscapes. These plantations are working to meet local demands for timber and non-timber products while restoring ecological services to degraded land and supporting local food supply .
The country has also developed, in 2015, the Mozambique’s Forest Investment Plan laying out a large-scale, phased framework and direction for expanding investments outside and within the sector, which furthers the programmatic landscape approach. The Investment Plan, coupled with the Bank’s convening and technical support, led to the creation of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for integrated Forest and Landscape Management that has potential to attract other development partners. While significant resources have already been dedicated to the Investment Plan, to implement it fully across the entire country would require additional resources of well over 500 million USD .
Goals and Ambitions
Under its REDD+ strategy, Mozambique aims to reduce deforestation by 40%, and to restore 1 million ha of forests by 2030 , while under its Nationally Determined Contribution, Mozambique targets greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 23MtCO2 from 2020 to 2024, and 53 MtCO2 from 2025 to 2030 .
- Keep posing strong emphasis on reducing rural poverty and sustainable natural resource management, as the current Government did, though an institutional set up.
- Set up high priorities and targets recognizing the importance of rural development and forests and keep publicly recognizing forest-related challenges, showing commitment to addressing them.
- There are also ways forward to increase the benefits to communities from forests, beginning with key stakeholders recognizing that CBNRM is a key element of a national rural development strategy.
- Mozambique has been able to mobilize substantial financial resources for forest and natural resource sector management and improvement. There is potential for this to increase, and continued resource mobilization is necessary to ensure that these efforts can be sustained.