Concession logging has at times been seen as a serious threat for the environment and local communities in tropical forest areas. But experience gradually gained from the productive woodlands in the central parts of Mozambique indicates that the activity can be ecologically sound.
If a business company is selectively cutting the most precious trees in a woodland area, they will easily get a reputation of being “the bad guys”. However, if the activities are following a carefully scheduled plan with special efforts to maintain recruitment and support regeneration of similar trees, it turns into forest management.
Looking for live examples of more complex management, we found coppice management, soil scarification, direct seeding and complementary planting. Typically, four saplings are planted for each harvested tree, and this alone will compensate for the removal. Some additional regeneration is achieved by direct and natural seeding after soil scarification. Sprouts of cut stumps are also tended to and they mature into timber size trees quite rapidly.
The multiple treatments will assure continuous forest production, one main criterion for sustainable forestry. The harvesting rate is just a few trees per year and hectare and a harvesting cycle of 25–30 years has been used – this is low impact forestry by default.
The companies with this level of sustainability have received FSC certification for their business enterprises. But so far there are only a couple of them. Complex management and certification do not come without costs and the majority of concession owners probably do not currently see the needs and the benefits. It is necessary to spread the message and show that it is the best way to proceed.
Thorough validation of the management methods used would be valuable. Growth predictions are needed to calculate correct harvesting rates and cycles in different conditions. This is where forest researchers can contribute a lot. Furthermore, the FAO is currently supporting model forests in Mozambique with certification of two concession companies as an objective.
It is necessary to spread the message that complex management and certification are the best way to proceed.
Looking at the present situation as a forester (and wooden boat enthusiast), I will give my support to the concession people. Their end-products (furniture, flooring, turnings, and panels) are beautiful and long-lasting products, very close to being “eco-friendly” given the correct production line.
On the other hand, the community needs to have jobs and income. Plantation forests can provide them. Currently, about 250,000 ha of woodlands are being planted with fast growing eucalypts for a new pulp factory. This is a change of the natural woodlands. But, with investments of 3 billion USD and 7,000 new job opportunities, the advantages cannot be over-seen.
The land area needed for the plantations is actually relatively small – the equivalent of about six concession forest areas. Biodiversity and ecological stability can be maintained with land-use management of the areas surrounding the individual plantations. In this way,the company will be able to meet certification criteria, too.
It’s not a complete success story yet, but forest management is being introduced in Mozambique and the effects are definitely positive.