Sustainable use of wood resources in South Sudan

Project completed
A group of people standing around a table with a map spread over it.
A vegetation map is the basis for the sustainable use of natural resources in Pariang County. © SDC ©

In South Sudan wood is an important fuel and building material.  As a result of the large flow of refugees from Sudan, the pressure on already scarce natural resources, including wood, in some regions of the country has further increased.  For this reason, the SDC is funding a forest-mapping project with the aim of promoting the sustainable use of wood in South Sudan.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Sudan
Humanitarian Assistance & DRR
Material relief assistance
01.06.2013 - 31.03.2015
CHF 300'000

As a result of the conflicts between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM–N) and the Sudanese armed forces, more than 200,000 people have fled to South Sudan. The bulk of these refugees are now living in the South Sudanese federal states of Unity and Upper Nile, creating considerable challenges for the regions concerned. In some areas the number of refugees is three times larger than the local population, and pressure on the already scarce resources such as wood, water and arable land has grown further. This situation often leads to tensions and conflicts between refugees and the local people.

The SDC is supporting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its efforts to counter or reverse the negative effects of the overuse of natural resources in South Sudan.  In the medium term, there are plans to implement a strategy on the permanent monitoring of the ecological effects of refugee camps in the federal states of Upper Nile and Unity.  As part of these efforts, from June 2013 to the end of March 2015, the SDC funded a project to conduct forest mapping in the South Sudanese counties of Maban (Upper Nile) and Pariang (Unity) with the aid of satellite images.

The purpose of this mapping project is to determine the distribution and volume of available wood reserves and the quantities that can be used sustainably. Wood is an important resource in the above-mentioned counties because it is used as a building material and fuel (charcoal). Forest mapping is intended to provide the basis for joint forest management by the local population and the refugees, and to contribute to minimising conflicts between these two groups.

The problem of forest fires

In April and May 2014, the first successful on-site measurements were made under the management of SDC specialists. In cooperation with UNHCR personnel and representatives of local authorities, the ground cover at 20 locations and the vegetation at 17 locations was recorded and analysed. The data obtained was further processed at the University of Zurich and compared with information obtained from satellite images. So that such measurements can be extended to other areas in South Sudan and carried out by local personnel, the people involved in taking these measurements were given training in methodology and the correct handling of the measuring equipment.

Previous studies and on-site measurements have shown that the sustainable use of wood in Maban and Pariang is made extremely difficult as a result of forest fires. It is estimated that every year more than half the area of both these South Sudanese counties is affected by fires. Most of them are started intentionally to create grazing land. Without better control of these fires the regeneration of trees and bushes is set back every year and the process of reforestation cannot begin.  For this reason, the inclusion and involvement of the local population is of central importance in order to facilitate community forest management and the sustainable use of wood resources.

Further Information