As Africa’s largest exporter of tropical wood to the European Union, Cameroon is well known for being an international timber exporter, however domestic timber trade seems to be slowing down. Forestry researchers hold that Cameroon, which boasts of 20 million hectares of forest – a great portion of the national territory, tends to ignore its domestic timber market and trade in its national forest policies. The result, the country’s forest is left at the mercy of artisanal loggers and traders who on an annual basis record extremely high volumes of trade. The sector’s economic, environmental and social impacts only started being evaluated recently.
A Campaign launched by the Center for International Forestry Research to ensure that only legally sawn wood is used henceforth in the country is underway.
According to research findings by the CIFOR, if small-scale production of sawn wood market in Cameroon be taken into account, the total national production would equal 4.3 million cubic meters per year. This will nearly double the official figures cited by the government, the CIFOR research suggested. The study by CIFOR suggests that even government finds itself making use of illegally sawn wood in the construction of public structures.
To combat this issue CIFOR has launched a project to sensitize private and public individuals and entities on the need to encourage the use of wood from legally known sources. While launching the project during a workshop in Yaounde, the Central Africa Regional Coordinator of CIFOR, Dr. Richard Eba’a Atyi, said that the phenomenon of illegal timber trade is worrisome, with the government also involved.
“We have been working with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife as well as other partners to reverse the tide. The first driver of the use of legal wood should be the government itself,” Dr. Richard Eba’a Atyi said.
Domestic chainsaw milling operations in recent years has created 45,000 direct jobs and generated over FCFA 17 trillion.
The recent campaign falls in line with the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) of EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The Center for Research and Action for Sustainable Development (CERAD) and the Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences of the University of Dschang also launched related projects.