Luke is promoting the sustainable use of forest resources in Mozambique. During the first stage of the FORECAS project, a wood technology laboratory was built and in the extension section the value added of forest industry products will be increased. In addition, new species of wood are being sought to replace threatened species.
In terms of forest resources, Mozambique is one of the largest states in Africa. Forest covers 51%, or 41 million hectares, of Mozambique´s area. The value added is low and the wood processing industry is underdeveloped, so the forest sector´s contribution to GDP is only four per cent. A large proportion of the wood is exported as raw wood. The main export country is China.
The sustainable use of wood in Mozambique will be increased by means of cooperation between the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and local actors. The first phase of the two-stage FORECAS project was implemented between 2012 and 2015. This year, Finland´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs allocated EUR 700,000 for the second phase of the development cooperation project, which will run until the end of 2018.
Enhanced research on raw materials obtained from natural forests is necessary in order to develop the use of forest resources in a sustainable manner. This requires Luke´s forestry, wood, soil and agricultural expertise. The Agrarian Research Institute of Mozambique and the Faculty of Agronomy and Forest Engineering in Eduardo Mondlane University are involved in the project.
Wood laboratory to be put to efficient use
In the first phase of the project, the experts transferred their know-how, for example, by organising training courses, workshops and seminars in Mozambique, and by supervising practical training in Finland. Permanent sample plots established in Mozambique´s provinces in which the tree growth and yields are monitored constitute visible results.
In addition, a wood technology laboratory was set up in Mozambique´s capital, Maputo, in cooperation with local partners. The wood laboratory has the capability to study, for example, wood fibres and annual increments.
The coordinator of the second phase, Luke´s Researcher Veikko Möttönen, says that Mozambique has invested in wood material science education, which meant that it was relatively easy to find qualified researchers.
“At the moment, we are trying to increase the use of the wood laboratory in research, but later on we will market the laboratory to local companies too.”
According to Möttönen, the previous phase of the FORECAS project succeeded in increasing the statistical analysis skills of local researchers as well as forest research data sharing and information management competence.
New wood species
The biggest concerns related to Mozambique’s forest sector include forest fires, shifting cultivation and illegal felling. Investment in the forest sector has been marginal due to large financial risks and undeveloped funding markets.
Four or five wood species, which have been used for many years, are utilised in Mozambique. The felling pressure on these species has rendered or threatens to render them endangered. These wood species are, for example, umbila, chanfuta, jambire and mecrusse.
The main objective of the ongoing FORECAS project is to increase awareness of little-known wood species. The researchers believe that they have found species which are suitable for the wood products industry or for other uses.
“Trees belonging to the genus Brachystegia are examples of wood species selected for the project which are little known but promising in terms of processing potential,” Möttönen says.
Raw materials obtained from natural forests are needed for the manufacture of food and medicine-like products in addition to products for the wood products industry. In all of these, the driving objective is the sustainable use of raw materials in Mozambique´s small businesses and small scale industry.
Sustainable forestry can support Mozambique´s economy, as a large proportion of the population is dependent on the forests. As much as 80 per cent of energy consumption is is based on the use of firewood and charcoal. In addition to energy wood, other important non-timber forest products include grass, bamboo, reed, medicinal herbs and edible wild plants.
Research progresses in networks
Luke´s experts are also endeavouring to improve the communication of their Mozambican partners. Likewise, the aim is to develop the networking of Mozambican wood sector operators.
“During the first stage, we organised a networking meeting, which was attended by people from the five of the neighbouring countries. At present, we are continuing to promote the networking of wood researchers in South and East Africa. The Forest Academy for decision makers increases contributors´ knowledge of forest issues,” Möttönen says.
According to the coordinator of the first stage,Sinikka Västilä, currently head of the European Forest Institute´s North Europe Regional Office, the benefit is mutual: Forest research is strengthening in Mozambique, and Luke´s knowledge of forestry in developing countries is growing.
Text: Hannu Kaskinen