Country Profiles

Central African Republic - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In spite of the development of legislation and policy documents that have contributed to managing the country’s biodiversity in a more sustainable manner, a general trend of biodiversity degradation continues. The compilation of a more accurate picture of biodiversity status and trends is hampered by lack of information and the non-existence of a system for reviewing and monitoring biodiversity, including a set of indicators.

In 1986, it was estimated that forests covered 15% of the country’s territory. The general observation was that there was a progressive annual reduction of forest areas, to the benefit of savannah grasslands, of 2.5% between 1985 and 1996. Slash and burn agriculture is one of the main causes of the reduction of different forest types. The extensive use of wood energy (by approximately 99.8% of the population) also contributes to significant habitat loss around major cities. Anthropogenic pressures on the rainforest in the southwestern part of the country, due mainly to industrial logging, have resulted in the forest being reduced by 19,400 hectares per year. Biodiversity loss at all levels has been evidenced, including a significant reduction in flagship species, such as the elephant, giraffe, ostrich, lion, hippo and damaliscus, as well the skimming of the populations of some noble species, such as Entandrophragma cylindricum (Sapelli). However, in areas where local programs for managing forest resources exist, the effects of pressures are mixed.

Protected areas comprise 11% of the country’s territory. However, if multi-purpose reserves, including leased or licensed sectors and village hunting zones, are also taken into account, the total area under protection increases to 38%. In protected areas (e.g. Zemongo, Nana Barya reserves), the incursion outside of transhumance corridors of Sudanese and Chadian herders, along with their herds of cattle, is a factor contributing to habitat degradation. Also, despite the conservation of large mammals through programs implemented in protected areas and village hunting zones (ECOFAC-ZCV, ECOFAC-NGOTTO, WWF DZANGA-SANGHA), threats from poaching and armed conflicts impede progress towards the restoration and conservation of species diversity. The André Félix National Park and the Yata Ngaya Wildlife Reserve have been gradually emptied of their wildlife by extensive poaching and Sudanese transhumance. However, the most serious disturbances to protected areas are linked to the creation of new villages, making their management costly, very difficult, if not impossible. The presence of humans in protected areas scares away wildlife, affecting revenues from tourist services for the communities. Invasive alien species represent the second source of threat to habitats and the livelihoods of rural communities. While aquatic ecosystems are slowly being invaded by water hyacinth (Eicchorniacrassipes), Salviniamolesta, and water lettuce (Pistiastratioites), rangelands are threatened by the encroachment of the Laos herb (Chromolaenaodorata). An institutional framework to monitor invasive alien species has not yet been developed. Watercourse habitats are also vulnerable to gold and diamond mining exploration. The Sangba, Bamingui and Ngoumbiri Rivers, in protected areas, whose watercourses were vital to animals and local populations, have been significantly destroyed as a result of mining activity.

The depletion of agrobiodiversity resources is particularly worrisome. Food crops account for 75% of cultivated areas and are often self-consumed. On 150,000 km2 or about 1.5 million ha of agricultural land, only 7,000 km2 are cultivated each year. Those crop cultures are undergoing genetic erosion due to limited capacity for in situ and ex situ conservation. Cassava, rice and maize cultures are also threatened by viral diseases, pest attacks and climatic variability, while cultivars of sorghum are scarce or disappearing.

Indigenous peoples, such as the Baakas pygmies, are solely reliant on forest resources (hunting, gathering, fishing, etc.) as a source of livelihood. Almost all of the rest of the country’s population is to a greater or lesser degree dependent on non-timber forest products (caterpillars, edible fungi, bushmeat, vegetables, fruits, etc.) for food and medicine. Wildlife contributes 90% of the protein requirements for 62% of the rural population, with average consumption being 11.6 kg per person per year. Cattle are the source of 98% of the meat and 100% of the milk produced in the country. The Central African Republic is also an exporter of cattle to the Congo, Cameroon and Nigeria. The FAO estimated in 2007 that the country’s forests provide 2,000,000 m3 of wood fuel for domestic purposes, representing more than 95% of the energy demand of households, particularly in rural areas. Forests also provide timber export resources (round wood and sawn timber), contributing up to 9% of the Gross Domestic Product and 13% of the state’s revenue, and are the country’s largest industrial employer. Protected areas are also a source of foreign exchange for the country and thus a tool for socio-economic development for riparian communities. Sport hunting practiced around these areas generates jobs and substantial revenue for the country as well as for the municipalities and surrounding communities. The annual production of cassava, which is the staple food, was estimated at 562,000 tons in 2002, representing 40% of the farms. Groundnut (122,000 tons) and maize (107,000 tons) are the other main food crops cultivated; cash crops are cotton, coffee, tobacco, palm oil and sugar cane.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main causes of ecosystem degradation are the lack of biodiversity management planning; inefficient management of regulatory measures and economic measures for biodiversity valuation; absence of technical measures for efficient management; lack of awareness regarding the sustainable use of biodiversity. The principal threats to biological resources are deforestation and forest degradation; large-scale poaching; uncontrolled border transhumance; uncontrolled exploitation of biological resources; lack of a national inventory of biological resources and a taxonomic referral center; uncontrolled introduction of invasive alien species; loss of agro-biodiversity genetic resources; lack of a climate change warning system; armed conflicts. Biodiversity management has also been weakened by the politico-military crisis responsible for the use of assault weapons, explosives and steel cables for hunting game. Some protected areas have been invaded by soldiers who hunt game species for their main food sources. Fisheries resources are also being depleted, while legislation is ignored. The root causes for this are the use of unauthorized fishing equipment, such as ichthyo-toxic products, and a lack of knowledge about spawning areas.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The 2000 Strategy outlines strategic directions for the conservation of flora, fauna, fisheries and agro-biodiversity, biosafety, sustainable use, and the fair sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources. The country has developed two policy documents that incorporate the objectives of the CBD. However, implementation of these strategies has been weak due to inadequate and/or non-existent financial, material and human capacity; non-integration of biodiversity issues in other sectoral policies; absence of a monitoring mechanism and indicators; non-internalization of emerging issues related to biodiversity. The need to prepare an updated NBSAP is recognized, as is integrating the Millennium Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, emerging themes (e.g. biofuels, climate change), various CBD work programmes, relevant initiatives (e.g. National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation, National Action Plan to Combat Desertification) in the updated NBSAP.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Even though the country possesses 18 protected areas comprising 11% of the country’s surface area, progress related to institutional and juridisdictional matters for protected areas remains limited. The country does not possess a botanical garden or zoo; knowledge and technologies regarding plant genetic diversity and animal species are still very sparse. Although some lists of plants exist, they are in need of updating, synthesizing and completion. Notably, an updated plants catalogue is in preparation. Forest management standards have been implemented that call for the establishment of a genetic conservation area, where research for monitoring biodiversity is recommended, for each Planning and Exploitation Permit (PEA) held. A management strategy for protected areas is being developed within the ECOFAC framework. In addition, 100 new rangers have been trained, anti-poaching activities have increased with the participation of the country’s armed forces, and a project for the sustainable management of non-timber forest products is underway with the support of FAO. The rate of loss and degradation of natural habitats due to bushfires has been considerably reduced as a result of public awareness-raising activities aired on national and local radio stations.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Most sectoral and intersectoral plans, programs and policies do not explicitly incorporate biodiversity issues. However, the country has made some mainstreaming progress through the creation of the Forestry Code (2008) which aims to improve the sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair sharing of benefits arising from its use through participatory management and community forestry initiatives. Positive measures undertaken in protected areas include the strengthening of anti-poaching activities and policing in regard to hunting; development of ecotourism; establishment of the Friends of Nature Club; implementation of investment programs as result of the capital received from entry fees; establishment of village hunting zones in peripheral areas as well as outside protected areas. Both the National Environmental Action Plan and the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity propose extending the protected areas network to 15% by 2015.

In regard to forest management, the rules concerning Planning and Exploitation Permits (PEAs) have been strengthened, with the establishment of management plans being mandatory. Also enforced is the requirement to provide information on wood traceability, a list of protected species and pay taxes to forest communities. The application of penalties and fines for violations has also become stricter. To avoid the massive destruction of some plant species, the country has set standards for a Minimum Exploitable Diameter (MED) to reduce the impact of logging on certain plant species.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A monitoring and evaluation mechanism is not in place for reviewing implementation status. The country has not yet adopted innovative technologies for effectively managing protected areas. However, satellite imagery, ecological monitoring software, GPS and GIS are increasingly sought for projects. Programs for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of protected areas, monitoring management efficiency, and status and trends at the national, regional and global levels, still need to be developed.