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niversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Mali: Gender, Health, and Development


Products from trees provide the essential human necessities of food and shelter, as well as the means to cook and construct them with firewood and lumber. With the earth’s ever increasing population and growing industries, these needs have also risen, and forests worldwide are feeling the strain of deforestation and over usage for both commercial and household consumption. Deforestation in Africa is occurring at a smaller scale than on other continents, but this does not mean it is any less damaging to local ecosystems (Bessassen, 2009, p. 76). In fact, African forests are particularly stressed because approximately 90% of the wood harvested from its trees is used for energy purposes and the harvesting has been found to occur in unsustainable manners (Bellassen, 2009, p. 76). Indeed, although Africa consumes the same amount of wood as Asia, when population is taken into account, Africa has by far the highest consumption of firewood per individual at 0.63 m3 (see Table 1). Although deforestation may be happening at a faster rate in other regions of the globe, the heavy reliance on Africa’s forest products has already caused permanent danger to its environment and is not showing good signs for the future. In the Sahel region of West Africa, the forests of Mali are showing no exception from this trend. Years of colonial exploitation for economic gains followed by strict state environmental policies established a system of forestry management disadvantageous for the rural poor population struggling to find resources for themselves. After droughts and wood shortages brought West Africa and its environmental degradation into international spotlight, political decentralization reforms have encouraged more local management of natural resources. While both Malian and internationally based non-governmental organizations have worked hard to turn the tables against deforestation by working with rural villages, the area’s environment is still at risk.


Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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