Responsible forestry in the Congo River Basin forests

A revolution for responsible forestry

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Olivier van Bogaert
Logging concession, south-east Cameroon. The WWF Jengi project has helped improve sustainable forest practices, including working with forest companies like SEFAC to build narrower roads on their concessions. Cameroon Project CM0871 - Jengi South East Forest Programme. Ecoregion 6
© WWF-Canon / Olivier van Bogaert
With rampant illegal logging, vague logging concession boundaries and massive blocks of pristine forest destined for the chainsaw, how do you avoid an ecological disaster?

WWF is defending forests and people in several ways, including through an unexpected ally – the timber industry itself.
Wood product consumers around the world are exerting huge pressure on tropical forests. To meet this demand, vast quantities of timber products from the Congo Basin and elsewhere are being imported into Japan, China, the US and European nations.

As Central Africa strives towards economic and social development, the need for hard cash is bringing more logging concessions into the forests. If left unchecked, these threaten to deplete vital resources without reducing poverty.

Riding the wave of forestry reform in the Congo Basin

But there are signs that key actors in the region are standing up for forests. For example, the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon and Gabon have adopted stringent forestry laws in an effort to encourage responsibly forestry.

For WWF, this is an unprecedented opportunity to push for these commitments to take full effect. Across the region, we are behind the implementation of these new laws, supporting national efforts for responsible forestry and lending a hand to bring illegal logging under control.  

Shedding light on responsible forestry

Logging companies will buy into environmental responsibility if it makes economic sense. So from Cameroon to DRC, and from logging companies to governments and communities, we are bringing the same message: responsible forestry can bring positive economic and environmental results, and WWF can help in this process.

Building on a conservation landmark

Many of our projects follow up on the Yaoundé process, initiated with WWF's help The Yaoundé process represents a catalytic commitment by the Central African Heads of State for the responsible management of the Congo Basin Forests.
Find out more.

Where is the forest spirit?

In southeastern Cameroon, in an area inhabited by the BaAka pygmies, WWF is implementing the Jengi Initiative. This pilot project seeks to establish responsible forest management and a protected areas system in the region’s forests. Jengi is also the spirit of the forest. But is it still looking after the BaAka?
A key aspect of our work is to demystify certification  and prepare a roadmap for authorities and the private sector to progress towards responsible forestry. In our efforts, we are securing the support of forestry administration, local and international NGOs and donors.

Logging companies rally up

There are more positive signs. We found out that some logging companies operating in the Congo Basin are in fact quite willing to reduce their impact on forests. So we have setup a framework to help them achieve this worthy goal.

Birth of the “Central Africa Forest & Trade Network”

Doing the right thing is not necessarily easy. To promote, support and guide logging companies that understand how good logging practices can lead to a market advantage, WWF has set up the Central Africa Forest & Trade Network (CAFTN) for responsible forest management and trade.

What is certified wood?

Forest certification is a system of forest inspection and a means of tracking timber and paper through a "chain of custody" - following the raw material through to the finished product. The aim is to ensure that the products have come from well-managed forests - meaning they take into account environmental, social and economic principles and criteria.
 / ©: CAFTN
Central Africa Forest and Trade Network (CAFTN) logo
© CAFTN
 / ©: (c) WWF
Sustainable Forestry
© (c) WWF

New approaches, new opportunities

Thanks to the CAFTN, exciting things are happening at the intersection of responsible forestry and timber trade. WWF has already facilitated contacts between Central Africa logging companies committed to responsible forest management and big Dutch timber buyers that have similar objectives.

The next step? Trade agreements. Here again, we are fortunate to have facilitated the signing of a trade agreement between Decolvenaere, a logging company operating in Cameroon, and VETKA, a buyer operating in Europe and sourcing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forest products.

The challenges of certification…

Although we are making great efforts to raise awareness about FSC, there’s a reality to face. In Central Africa, the forest certification process is taking time to take root as companies are sometimes reluctant to adopt logging practices that may be more costly in the short term.

However, they may be willing to consider other issues: for example, where there is limited market demand for certified products, there is often a willingness by companies to try limiting bushmeat hunting and transportation on their concessions.

Very often, this is just a start that can lead to greater commitments for responsible forest management.

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