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Guinea is endowed with a majestic landscape and natural resources that are unique to this West African nation. Guinea possesses a diversity of landscapes, from the arid region of the Sahel in the north to the lush rainforest of Lower Guinea in the south. There are generally four forest types in Guinea, mangroves, dense humid forest, dense dry forest, and wooded savanna. These forest types combine to cover only 15 percent of the total land area of Guinea and are currently under immense pressure. Forest loss, caused primarily by slash and burn agriculture, uncontrolled grazing, burning and hunting, is estimated at 30,000 hectares per year, a result of the growing needs of an increasing population.
The United States Agency for International Assistance (USAID) and the National Directorate of Water and Forest (DNEF) are now working together to develop strategies to conserve and wisely use Guinea 's remaining forests. Given the myriad of threats to Guinea 's forests, the DNEF has embraced a policy of working directly with communities to improve forest management. Participative forest management is one method which USAID and the DNEF are employing to engage communities living in and adjacent to forest resources in a process that will establish their legal access to forest resources. By empowering the communities who have the most to gain from a well-managed forest, the USFS supports the DNEF in participative forest management approaches that will lead to more profitable and healthy forests.
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Institutional Strengthening Program
US Forest Service technical assistance in Guinea has been a long-term on-going effort since October 2004 in response to a request from the USAID/Guinea Mission. Having implemented forest co-management activities for five years, USAID/Guinea desired some technical expertise to review the approach, and by building on successes and tackling remaining obstacles, scale-up community forestry programs for interim NRM strategic objectives. The US Forest Service International Programs, with regional experience in forest management ( Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Ghana ) and a cadre of professionals in tropical ecosystems, continues to provide long-term technical assistance directly to the DNEF through its Institutional Strengthening Program (ISP).
For the past 15 years USAID/Guinea has supported numerous field projects in natural resource management based on the principles of Good governance and Democracy (decentralized authority, transparency, and the active participation of all interested actors), starting in 1993 with a Land Tenure Study Program in Nialama and continuing up to their current projects, the Institutional Support Program of the USDA Forest Service International Program, which currently provides assistance to political reforms from within the DNEF.
The direct support of USAID/Guinea and the USFS has resulted in the creation of 85 community-based forest management groups who now manage over 5000 hectares of community forests (another 40 groups are still being processed); another 5 classified forests, totaling 85000 ha, are under co-management since the approval of over 30 land use agreements and contracts which are currently being implemented; in addition, over 1600 ha of agricultural land is currently cultivated using improved sustainable agricultural practices; finally, well over 57 community-based natural resource management plans have been elaborated and approved by the DNEF.
Over the past four years, the USFS has supported a number of short-term missions in addition to the long-term support of their technical advisor based in Conakry. Activities and achievements over the past few years include an assessment of historical context, current challenges, and possibilities for long-term reform and change regarding protected area management, the use of current forest co-management activities as a guiding principle for forest management in Guinea, human resources management within the National Direction of Waters and Forests (DNEF), support of large-scale Guinean national forest policy reform, and use of information management for decision making. The USFS carried out four assessments early on in the project which focused on the overall management of natural resources, protected areas management, human resource management and information management systems within the DNEF. Recommendations from these four assessments served as the foundational framework for the current implementation strategy which continues to evolve over time.
The USFS long-term technical advisor actively supports four working groups at the heart of the DNEF in Conakry that develop and enable key actors within the DNEF to implement reforms on the following topics: institutionalizing forest co-management, increasing understanding an increased differentiation between the relative roles of the DNEF and the Ministry of Environment for natural resources management, improving internal structure and policies to increase efficiency throughout the DNEF, and development of improved internal information and communication systems to support sound decision-making and increase transparency. The DNEF took a leadership role in forming these groups by putting the appropriate DNEF employees in the driver’s seat. While this approach may initially slow the speed at which change occurs due to DNEF’s lack of previous experience in such a role, it will ultimately lead to greater ownership and sustainability of proposed reforms.
Other principal achievements include completion of limited training activities, installation of internet and computer equipment in the DNEF, and exposure of DNEF employees to forest management practices employed in the sub-region and in other parts of the world. Through the USFS efforts, the DNEF was supported in adopting Guinea ’s National Strategy for Participative Forest Management in 2007, in participating in the ongoing revitalization of the Mano River Technical Committee Meetings throughout the sub-region, and in hosting the first West African Regional Workshop on Sustainable Forest Management in November 2007.
West African Regional Workshop on Sustainable Forest Management
The US Forest Service recently supported a natural resource management workshop for forest planners, managers, and conservation professionals in West Africa in November 2007. Phillip Carter, US Ambassador to Guinea, along with Clifford Brown, US Agency for International Development-Guinea Mission Director, supported the initiative and delivered meaningful speeches at the workshop opening ceremony. With forest management agency representatives from eight West African countries and a dozen international or local organizations, the Forest Service contributed to a unique opportunity for West African natural resource professionals to exchange experiences and strategize about regional management objectives and activities.
The USFS assisted the DNEF in the design and management of this workshop aimed at promoting regional dialogue on forest resources, exchanging best practices and lessons learned, and thinking strategically on increasing West African regional collaboration to achieve collective goals. In doing so, the workshop participants traveled to several field sites within Guinea as a complement to formal presentations and interactive discussion sessions.
While the geographic distance between forestry professionals in the region may not be very large, for many participants, this was their first opportunity to meet and interact with other foresters working on the other sides of their borders. The beginning of a regional network of professionals was established. Perhaps more important, belief in and recognition of the essential interconnectedness of natural resource management activities throughout the region was articulated. Participants commented that they felt inspired from the workshop and excited about greater regional-level natural resource management collaboration.
Good Governance and Policy Development
Support of the USFS of reforms in the DNEF continue to reinforce the fundamental principle that good governance of natural resources is required for both sustainable management of forest resources, increased and sustainable economic development, and the stability of nations. Decentralized decision-making, increased community rights and responsibilities, and increased institutional transparency and accountability are at the heart of USFS support to policy reforms in the DNEF in Guinea.
Several significant gains have been made by USFS technical support to the DNEF concerning improvements in good governance practices and policy reform. With USFS support, the DNEF contributed to the revision of the National Agricultural Development Policy and Vision for 2015. Good governance practices were supported and community awareness was raised when the DNEF produced and distributed thousands of copies of the recently revised wildlife and forest codes where citizen rights and responsibilities were documented, translated, and explained in common languages. The ISP supported the DNEF in the development of Forest Policy Principles which currently guide DNEF implementation actions. Adoption of the 2007 National Strategy for Participative Forest Management was facilitated by the USFS technical advisor and currently serves as the principal document for the enhancement and growth of participative forest management and the devolution of natural resource management decision-making and authority in Guinea.
Please see USFS trip reports on FRAME: http://www.frameweb.org/ev_en.php?ID=7709_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC
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