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cameroon: confronting congo forest destruction

Central Africa’s Congo Basin is one of the world’s largest reservoirs of biodiversity. Yet unsustainable logging, intensive mining, and large construction projects implemented by foreign transnational corporations are threatening Cameroon’s rich biodiversity. The biggest threat of all is logging, some of it legal, much of it illegal.


cameroon forestEven legal logging does not imply sustainability. Most concessions neither have nor require an approved management plan. Companies often cut only a handful of tree species, abandoning around one third of the timber logged as waste. The majority of logging companies operating in the Congo Basin are actually European. Most timber extracted is exported to Europe, either directly or by passing through China.

what happened: The major aim of Friends of the Earth Cameroon/Centre for Environment and Development is to protect biodiversity in Central Africa and halt illegal and unsustainable logging. Both the certification of sustainability and the certification of legality appear to be potential solutions. In order to achieve this, FoE Cameroon has trained people around the country to monitor illegal and unsustainable logging. We have also organized the training of civil society representatives on monitoring certification processes. 

Importantly, those trained on the social and ecological standards of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified operations were able to provide crucial data for a complaint against the certifier, ICILA, to the FSC Secretariat. FoE Cameroon also challenged the first FSC certificate awarded to Wijma, a Dutch company that does not deserve this label. After pressure from NGOs, Wijma disappeared from the FSC’s list of certificate holders. In order to obtain international support for this struggle, FoE Cameroon has also taken journalists into the field to witness the forest devastation caused by companies which have attempted to gain certification.

Carrying out research and providing input in a variety of fora is a key strategy of FoE Cameroon’s work. This includes working with the EU on the development of voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs), which would commit importing countries to buy only timber “licensed” as “legal” from exporting countries. (These agreements are part of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, or FLEGT).

In an effort to further inform the discussion on sustainability certification, FoE Cameroon published an assessment of the relevance of the different certification mechanisms within the context of Central African forests. The main conclusions of this report (with regard to socio-economic aspects, corruption, participation and access to information) have fed into above-mentioned discussion on VPAs.

Friends of the Earth Cameroon has also drafted a report on industrial plantations and their impact on biodiversity destruction, specifically their impact on the forests and forest people. The report was used to start a discussion among NGOs and journalists in Cameroon, with the aim to increase monitoring of industrial plantations. The report also formed the basis of a complaint to the OECD against two industrial plantations.

what changed: This research showed that the certification system can improve the behaviour of some companies. In Cameroon, two out of the five companies considered for certification did improve: TRC and Rougier. TRC abandoned more than 20,000 ha of forest in the concession claimed by local communities. TRC also established a process for dealing with conflicts against local communities, and has established “no-go zones” in wildlife-rich areas of their concession. Rougier requested advice to improve communication with communities as a conflict-prevention tool.

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs

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