This report presents the results of a study carried out in 2017 through visits to sampled West and Central African countries, namely: Niger, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. It investigated the challenges of managed trans-boundary forest landscapes of West and Central Africa and perspectives for shared forest ecosystems to integrate this management category. It describes shared forests as, sub-biomes of forests with similar functional ecological processes crossing borders and shared by two or more countries. They are referred by some conservation organizations as ‘ecological regions’, by others as ‘forest hot-spots’ and others as ‘forest conservation heartlands’. The study describes trans-boundary forest management landscapes, different from shared forests, as naturally connected forest areas sustaining similar functional ecological processes, crossing one or more international boundaries that include both protected areas and multiple resource use zones, and involve some form of cooperation in their management. Their objective is to promote land use policies and practices on each side of a border that do not adversely affect ecosystem function and resilience, the composition and persistence of species as well as economic revenues and human survival on the other side of the border (Vasilijević et al. 2015).
Trans-boundary forest landscape management (also trans-boundary forest landscape conservation and management) is an extension of the limited trans-boundary biodiversity protection approach. It fundamentally seeks to improve the chances of forest and biodiversity conservation by extending beyond biodiversity protection to include watershed management, and local economic development through participatory land-use planning for extractive resource zones, and community areas on a larger scale. The approach is characterized by rolling institutional agreements in an adaptive management fashion, extensive land-use planning and sustainable or long term funding through the establishment of trans-boundary forest management trust funds.
The study upholds the results of previous researchers (Wood et al. 2000) that: poverty, population growth, skewed market arrangements and environmentally insensitive policies including their inadequate sector level coordination constitute major pressures and root causes of degradation of trans-boundary forest management landscapes. While the study identified several threats and weaknesses to the sustainable management of such landscapes, the top four, common to both trans-boundary moist forest landscapes and savanna woodlands were: policy differences and problems of collaboration, wildlife related crime and poaching, unplanned cutting of wood and over-exploitation through logging, and incompatible mining and quarries. The report advocates the development of partnerships taking account of political and socioeconomic pressures and threats on the resources of the landscape.