Certifying forests in western and central Africa

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Cameroon

Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Ghana
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Ivory Coast

Decolvenaere sawmill, Ndeng. At Decolvenaere, a Belgian logging company seeking FSC certification, unskilled workers earn 3 times Cameroon's minimum wage. Cameroon.
© WWF-Canon / Olivier VAN BOGAERT

Summary

Forest certification has been identified as a tool with the potential to improve the quality of forest management and conservation. In many of the countries of western and central Africa, current practices do not meet the increasing international consensus of expectations regarding forest management standards.

WWF is actively involved in helping countries in western and central Africa, as well as elsewhere in Africa, to promote better managed forests and to set up widely accepted forest certification programmes, which will improve access to the markets of timber-consuming countries of the EU.

Background

Forest certification has been identified as a tool with the potential to improve the quality of forest management, and with it the conservation of biodiversity and the long-term access of tropical timber to European Union (EU) markets. Certification can help to achieve these aims by combining the roles of establishing certification standards (developed through participation and agreement among all stakeholder groups), evaluation and monitoring of forests and the chain of custody of forest products by independent certifiers, and regular monitoring of the certifier by an internationally accepted accreditor. In order to respond in a coordinated way to certification demands from outside, it is of utmost importance that an internationally accepted framework be installed in the countries of the region. The purpose of this project is to provide the necessary elements for establishing this framework. In addition, the project addresses the need for coordination and harmonization of the different initiatives regarding forest certification in EU member states.

In many of the countries of Western and Central Africa, current practices do not meet the increasing international consensus of expectations regarding forest management standards. Forest certification and timber labelling could serve as a tool to improve the quality of forest management, the access of tropical timber to export markets and opportunities for long-term development. Since the early 1990s WWF has been actively involved in timber certification and has taken a leader position. Together with the World Resources Institute (WRI), WWF was one of the major founding organizations of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Today the FSC is the most advanced worldwide organization in steering the international process of certification of forests and forest products. In 1994 FSC published its Principles and Criteria of Natural Forest Management. These international standards are in the process of being translated by FSC National Working Groups (with major stakeholders) into national or regional standards in various countries in the world. Furthermore, the FSC is in the process of accrediting the first four independent certification bodies, which will be able to start forest certification using FSC criteria and the FSC logo on forest products. In the UK, a group of more than 40 industries, formed under the impulse of WWF-UK, signed an agreement to sell certified timber before the end of 1995. In Belgium, Club 1997, comprising more than 50 timber imports and retailers, is aiming at the sale of FSC-certified timber before 1 January 1997.

Objectives

Main objective

- Prepare a programme aimed at the promotion of sustainable forest management in Western and Central Africa by setting up a widely accepted regional programme of forest certification and improving long-term access to the markets of timber-consuming countries of the EU.

Specific objectives

- Organize trade in Europe to increase the demand of certified timber from well-managed sources.

- Obtain support from major donor agencies/organizations to achieve cooperation and coordination on the subject.

- Develop a methodology of certification in a pilot country in order to promote sustainable forest management and to market timber with an internationally accepted log.

- Start replication of the pilot country case study in various selected countries, using a uniform methodology and common approach.

- Determine the effectiveness and impact of certification on sustainable forest management.

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