Markets drive conservation in Central Africa



Posted on 20 November 2011  | 
Madrid, Spain – Certification has shown that commercial forestry can co-exist with conservation objectives in the Congo Basin, according to conclusions reached at an international seminar “Forest management as a tool for cooperation and rural development in Central Africa”, organized yesterday in Madrid by WWF/Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain.

Many studies show that best practices, such as certified forests, can contribute to the conservation of key species and the integrity of ecosystems, although there is still room for improvement to ensure that certified forests always reach the best conservation standards.

“Growth in certification is the best social, economic and environmental option for the development of forestry across the region. It offers a transparent model that drives improvements in standards and addresses key issues through a multi-stakeholder process. As such, certification of forests in the Congo Basin should at least treble within the next five years to reach 15 million hectares,” said George White, Head of GFTN.

Much has been achieved since the first seminar that took place in 2006.  Certification has grown in the Congo Basin from around 41,000 hectares in 2006 to almost 5.2 million hectares today. That’s the equivalent expansion in size from the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena (41,000 ha) to a nation roughly the size of Costa Rica (5.11 million ha).

In recent years, legislative processes both in the Congo Basin and Europe to combat illegal trade of forest products also started to change the market landscape, increasing focus on legality in the region and boosting public procurement in favour of legal and certified forest products.

Yet many challenges still remain. Felix Romero, Head of Forest Programme, WWF Spain: “Strong market signals to increase the demand for FSC, or at least for “legal timber, are even more important as they were in 2006.  The market remains an important driver and is a key condition for both legality and certification. But market demand within Europe generally, and in Spain specifically, needs to further increase. There is a need for more private sector involvement and more international cooperation in responsible forest management and trade. “

The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical forest after the Amazon, representing 180 million hectares – more than 15% of all the worldwide tropical forests . As a main consumer and second biggest European importer of African tropical wood, Spain has a major trading relationship with Congo Basin forest industries, with the volume of timber trade between Spain and the Congo Basin reaching 0.8 million m3 per year. That's a volume a few stories shorter than the 102-story Empire State building, which measures in at just over 1 million cubic meters. 

The event was opened with a speech by Mr. Henri Djombo, Minister of Sustainable Development, Forestry Economy and the Environment of the Republic of Congo, Ms. Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International and Ms. Felicidad Montero Pleite, Under-secretary of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain. Interventions were made, amongst others, by the German Development Bank, the Central African Forest Commission, the London Zoological Society and the Interafrican Forest Industries Association. 

WWF UK and WWF Germany are working with WWF CARPO on a 2 year EU-funded campaign (2010-2011) to raise awareness among EU consumers of the links between their consumption of timber products and the effects on communities and forests in the Congo Basin region.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK Enlarge
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
© Kate Holt / WWF-UK Enlarge

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