Definition of forestry

Definition of forestry

The term forests refers to a stand of trees whose crowns (tops) touch and form a closed canopy during or part of the year. A forest is a collection of vegetation dominated by trees growing together in a given place which may be naturally occurring or planted.

Forestry is the science and practice of exploitation and conservation of the forest resources. According to the Global Environment, forests in East Africa covered about 46,373, 000hectares of the total land by 1980.

However the size of he forests has been shrinking due to mismanagement of the forces resources and population increases. East Africa’s forest land has been shrinking as follows:

East Africa: Area under Forest Cover (1000ha) 1980-2000)

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Draw a line graph to show the trend of forest cover destruction in East Africa

Calculate the percentage change in the area under forest cover for each country between 1980 and 2000. East Africa has one of the most biologically diversified eco-systems in the tropical world. East Africa has many major tree species that is over 200 tree species growing in her forested areas as illustrated below:

Selected major tree species found in East Africa

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The differences between natural forest and plantation forest

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a) Natural forests

b) Plantation forests


A natural forest is a continuous and extensive area of land covered with close cover of trees and other forms of under growth that are growing together in an area where the physical conditions are favouring their existence.

The natural forests are found in areas that receive heavy rainfall of over 1000mm, well distributed throughout the year with double maxima of rainfall.

They are divided into three types

i). Tropical rainfall forests (equatorial)

ii). Mountain/ montane forests

iii). Mangrove forests.


Planting of trees in East Africa is as old as agriculture since people have always planted both food crops and trees. This involves the planting of exotic trees on a large scale. The distribution of soft wood plantation in East Africa is shown below

The table below shows the distribution of softwood in East Africa.

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Importance of Forests in East Africa

  • Source of valuable timber both from soft and hard wood trees
  • Provision of raw material for wood and pulp industries.
  • Provision of fuel wood and charcoal used for domestic and industrial purpose.
  • Forests contribution of modification of the micro climate
  • It has led to the development of the tourism industry i.e. Kibale forest National park.
  • Forests are sources of medicinal plants and herbs i.e. in Mabira forests
  • They purify the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide.
  • Provision of a sorted forests products like honey, bee waxy, mushrooms, nuts, bamboo shoots, fruits , shea butter oil in Mbale
  • Provision of construction and building materials
  • Educational and research purposes
  • Generation of government revenue through taxation of forest harvesters.
  • Provision of round wood, ply wood, block board, pulp and paper.
  • Maintenance of soil fertility.
  • Environmental protection (flora and fauna)
  • Employment opportunities in research centres.
  • Provision of extractives like latexes, oils, gums, resins which are collected from forest trees for industrial applications in Mbale.
  • Provision of Toxins and pesticides
  • Provision of rattan/cane and other fibres in Mabira forests
  • Development of eco-tourism

Disadvantages of forests

  • They are habitats for wild animals which destroys crops and attack human-beings.
  • Forests trees have suppression effects on crops
  • They are dense and damp hindering exploitation of their resources.
  • They are used as hiding places for anti-government activities or local thieves.
  • Soils near the forested areas lose their fertility very quickly. The soils are heavily leached.

Problems Facing Forestry Industry in East Africa

These include:

  • Agricultural encroachment on the forested areas.
  • The out break of accassional Wild fires and fires set by man. Fires are a seasonal occurance in forests, occurring mainly during annual dry spells. Some fires are associated with poaching/hunting, some are started by trespassers, holidaymakers, cattle keepers, crop farmers, while others are started by honey harvesters.
  • Insect pests and fungal infections insects pests like the Mvule gall fry and Mahogany shoot bore. These are common in natural forests. Pests of Plantation forests include; o Wood borers: termites which generally attack all exotic trees species mainly during the early stages of establishment. I.e. in Mafuga, Muko, Kirima forests in Kabale.
  • Sapsuckers like exotic Conifer aphids cause extensive damages to Cypress.
  • Game animal and Vermin: Through natural forests in East Africa contain a very large variety of game animals and vermin, only a few big ones like elephants and buffaloes are responsible for extensive damage to forests trees.
  • Illegal cattle grazing in the forested areas have led to the destruction of the forest resources for example Kasambya forests reserves and Luwunga forests reserves in Mubende district.
  • Illegal harvesting of wood and non woody products.
  • Smuggling of timber and other forests products across the East Africa’s boarders from DRC.
  • Limited market for timber and forest products in Kaabong.
  • Gestation period of the indigenous trees is too long for example Mvule and Mahogany takes up to 45 years.  Limited research because of inadequate funds provided by the central government.
  • In natural forests, trees are heterogeneous in nature (do not exist in a single stand of three species) hindering the exploitation of forest resources.
  • Dense forest cover hindering the exploitation of the forest resources
  • Political insecurity in the country.
  • Government policy of degazetting and re-allocation of forested areas to individuals, tribal communities, companies and ministries i.e. 4686 ha of Bukaleba forest in Iganga was given to Ministry of Agriculture.  Narrow market due to the low level of demand for forestry products.
  • Low level of technology for harvesting forest resources.
  • Poor infrastructure i.e. Roads and railways
  • Few valuable tree species of Mahogany, Ebony, Green heart, Mvule, Nkoba.
  • Limited Navigable Rivers to transport the logs.
  • Nature of the terrain i.e. rugged areas restricts forestry activities mainly in Mountainous areas
  • Climate: Harsh climatic conditions at certain times i.e. excessive rainfall and humidity in forested areas hinders the exploitation of the forest resources.
  • Poor drainage of the forested areas limiting the construction of communication routes in Sango bay in Rakai.