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netherlands & cameroon: linking up to tackle cameroon’s illegal logging

Cameroon has more than 20 million hectares of humid tropical forest: however, illegal and destructive logging threatens this precious natural heritage and the people who depend on it. Europe is a major buyer of Cameroon’s timber, with the Netherlands being one of the biggest markets.

FoE NL exchange to CameroonTo enhance the Friends of  the Earth International network’s efforts to stem the tide of forest destruction in Cameroon and promote the shift to sustainable logging, Danielle van Oijen of FoE Netherlands went on a seven-week exchange program during 2006 at FoE Cameroon under the auspices of the Economic Justice, Resisting Neoliberalism Program.

what happened: During the exchange, she spent four weeks on forest missions to monitor illegal logging, and also toured a Forest Stewardship Council certified concession. According to Danielle, “We investigated both companies wanting to work towards sustainability and certification and flat out criminals who log hectares of forests illegally without any care for the environment or local people.” She also met with NGOs, research institutions, the independent monitor of Cameroon’s forestry activity, the ministry of forests, the Dutch embassy, and with companies to discuss illegal logging and FLEGT  (the European Union’s action plan to tackle illegal logging).

what we learned:
Time spent in the field greatly enhanced Danielle’s ability to asses FoE Cameroon’s field reports, and energised her strategy and planning. It also promoted her understanding of the Cameroon forest industry’s complex social and environmental issues – “essential background for joint illegal logging campaigns,” said Danielle.

The meetings with various stakeholders clarified FLEGT’s potential role in a solution. “The discussions made many actors realise that the reality in Cameroon is far different from the theory in Europe. It didn’t improve our hopes, but at least I was able to give input from an EU perspective …”

Equally important and inspiring were the bonds and respect Danielle gained for FoE Cameroon staff. She saw their strength, energy, and the wide range of work they do, “from small-scale fruit producing economic development projects for women’s groups, to hard-core legal work by jurists on illegal logging.”  She also witnessed the power of their commitment in the face of difficult and even life-threatening work situations, adding, “I am very much impressed with how the staff keeps up their spirits while fighting a system infected with corruption …”

what next: Based on the exchange, Danielle is working with FoE France and FoE Cameroon to develop three joint campaigns: halting small logging permits (this permit system currently leads to severe forest destruction and social conflict); battling corrupt use of forest taxes; and fighting illegal loggers and their clients. The overall goal is to stop illegal logging and trade, and promote a shift towards sustainable logging operations, to improve local forest people’s livelihoods.

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

Photo shows large-scale illegal logging by Italian logging company Fipcam in Cameroonian rainforest, discovered by FoE Cameroon and identified by Fipcam with GPS coordinates. Photo credit: Mileudefensie

FoE NL exchange to Cameroon gps

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