Thinking beyond the canopy
  • Events
  • Dry Forests Symposium

The dry forest and woodlands of Africa cover 54% of the continent and support some 64% of its population through the provision of a wide range of environmental goods and services. These multifunctional and dynamic landscapes are not just rich in biodiversity. Research has shown that they are inextricably linked to people's broader livelihood portfolio, playing an especially important role in supporting vulnerable households, including those headed by women, those affected by HIV/AIDS and those increasingly affected by climate variability.

Despite the ecological and livelihood importance of dry forests, these forests have to date received far less attention from research and development interventions than humid forest systems. This research gap is incongruous with the alarming rate at which these forests are disappearing. Furthermore, changes in the drivers of deforestation and in the political, environmental and socio-economic contexts across the region call for the need to reconsider and underscore Africa's dry forests and the role they play in providing a range of environmental goods and services. This is especially necessary within the context of climate change, increasing food insecurity and the growing demand on these forests for energy sources.

In response to these challenges (and potential opportunities), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in association with its partners and key stakeholders, convened a one-day international event on 1 December 2011, 'Dry Forests Symposium: Defining a new research agenda for Africa's dry forests', alongside the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa. The event provided a global platform for representatives from the research and development sector to openly discuss the challenges and opportunities faced in the sustainable use of dry forests, within broader agricultural landscapes.

It was envisioned that the Symposium would yield agreement on the outlines of a regional strategy for dry forests research on the continent, with the long-term objective of developing a global agenda for dry forest research.

For a wrap-up of the discussions at the symposium, read CIFOR Senior Scientist Terry Sunderland's blog, 'New research agenda for Africa's dry forests defined at Durban'.

You can also view the presentation 'Trees, woodlands and resilience in the drylands' given by keynote speaker Ed Barrow, of the IUCN, in the opening session of the symposium.