Tropical Forests

Most of the world species live in forests and in particular in tropical forests. Although some of these creatures are not obvious to all, e.g. insects, fungi and lower life forms, they play a critical role: they notably recycle nutrients and enable our ecosystems to renew themselves. It is estimated that 73% of tropical forests will have been felled by the year 2100.

The rapid disappearance of tropical forest and their biodiversity involves a wide range of changes, well beyond the known crucial interactions between forest cover and climate.

The MAB Programme promotes economically viable and ecologically sound management of these forests. The activities notably span research, conservation and training:

Regional School on Integrated Management of Tropical Forests and Territories (ERAIFT): 
UNESCO launched a postgraduate training in tropical forest management in 1999 at the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Named ERAIFT (École régionale post-universitaire d'aménagement et de gestion intégrés des forêts tropicales), the school trains some 30 specialists from francophone and lusophones countries in Africa each year, and has courses at Master (DESS) and PhD (doctorat) levels.

It is training a new generation of African specialists and decision-makers to apply the ecosystem approach in situ to forest management in Africa. The curriculum includes:

  • integrated management of tropical forests
  • collaborating with local communities
  • improving conditions for local populations
  • sustainable development

Visit the ERAIFT website for further details.


South-South Cooperation Programme for Environmentally Sound-Socio Economic Development in the Humid Tropics, coordinated since 1992 by the UNESCO Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences which hosts the Secretariat of the MAB Programme, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and the United Nations University (UNU). The Programme focuses on testing instruments for South-South cooperation in humid tropical areas, with special emphasis on:

  • network building,
  • technology transfer and
  • improvement of management know-how for UNESCO biosphere reserves.

The Programme has greatly benefited universities and research institutions in the Amazon region in terms of improving collaboration among institutions with similar interests, strengthening and building scientific capacity and increasing negotiation capabilities with regard to sustainable and equitable management of biodiversity.

In 2009, through the UNESCO Chair in South-South Cooperation for Sustainable Development, the Programme has expanded to other relevant humid tropic countries, and a memorandum of cooperation was signed by the Federal University of Pará (Brazil), the University of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Indonesian National MAB Committee to strengthen cooperation in science and higher education with the view of increasing the local capacity for carrying out management, research and training in the humid tropics environment. The South-South Co-operation Programme is sponsored by Germany through the Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation (BMZ) and Japan.

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