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- Forests provide critical ecosystems services, including carbon sequestration, watershed protection and biodiversity. Trade in a range of forest products from the COMESA region is already globally significant. Member countries are among the leading exporters of timber and non-timber forest products. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the fifth largest exporter of tropical logs. Sudan provides 40-50% of global supplies of gum Arabic, while Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya are leading exporters in a number of valuable flavours and fragrances (frankinsense, opopanax, myrrh.
- Although provide a number of service which represent a capital asset to each COMESA country, the long-term benefits that could be derived from wise management of these assets are generally not reflected in conven¬tional economic indicators.
- COMESA member countries Madagascar, Kenya, Burundi and DRC are also significant exporters of medicinal bark from Prunus africana. COMESA is a global leader in the production of vanilla (dominated by Madagascar) and ylang-ylang for perfumes (dominated by Comoros). Coffee and tea are major agroforestry crops, and several COMESA member countries (Kenya and to a lesser extent Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are significant producers of woodcarvings. Domestic markets for woodfuels provide an inexpensive source of energy for Africa’s poor while creating employment opportunities near urban centres.
- While such wealth of natural resources provides important opportunities for expanded trade in the forestry sector and for forestry-driven economic development, a number of challenges hinder efforts to capture this opportunity. A host of trade barriers exist, not the least of which are problems of governance. At a global scale, illegal logging costs governments at least US$10 billion in lost revenue alone, depresses global timber prices and reduces the perceived value of the sector.
- The impetus to expand African trade and related investments highlights the need for appropriate trade and investment policies to ensure the sustainable utilization of forest products and services. This is particularly true given that growth in trade can bring substantial costs
- To avoid this pitfall, impacts of trade policies on the forest sector need to be anticipated at the strategy design phase and assessed following major policies, trade deals and investments. Yet a regional forestry strategy is needed not only for environmental protection but also for fact that forest products and services bring significant value to rural livelihoods and the national economy, and require concerted effort so that the full potential of the sector in national economic development can be achieved.
- COMESA in collaboration with member States and CIFOR and other stakeholders has developed a strategy r on Forestry development in the COMESA region. The strategy outline key priority sectors for investment in the forestry sector such as on Payment for Ecosystem Services , fighting illegal trade in forestry products and capturing the value of the Sector in the national economy .