A new deal between the EU and Cameroon aims to fight illegal logging and help preserve the vast rainforest of Africa’s Congo Basin

 

Engineers of the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wild Life controlling a timber company in the Ambam region, Oct 2007

 

Cameroon and the European Union have reached a deal on transparency of exported wood products to the Eurozone market.

In the latest step toward fighting illegal logging, the European Union and Cameroon have signed an agreement to ensure shipments of wood products to Europe are licensed.  The deal is aimed at helping to preserve the vast rainforest of Africa’s Congo Basin.

Under the agreement, all timber products shipped to Europe are required by 2012 to carry licenses showing they have been legally harvested.

Cameroon is Africa’s largest exporter of timber products to Europe, and 80 percent of its wood exports head to the European Union.  It also is a member of the countries of the Congo Basin, which holds the world’s second-largest tropical forest, after the Amazon.

In remarks during the signing ceremony in Brussels, European development commissioner Andris Piebalgs outlined the larger issues at stake.  “It goes beyond just trade … it is more about sustainability of the whole planet.  It is a mechanism so comprehensive that I really believe this is a good example for others to follow.  And for us, as consumers, to think in a sustainable way.”

Under the deal, Cameroon will set up a national system to ensure timber production and sales are legal, not only to the European Union, but within domestic and non-European markets as well.

The forests of the Congo Basin are considered critical for biodiversity – and also in the fight against global warming.  Without restrictions, though, the international environmental group WWF says that by 2015, Cameroon and two other Congo Basin countries – the Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville – risk having their so-called “old growth forests” completely razed in unprotected areas.

Geert Lejeune heads Africa programs at WWF Belgium.  “When you let a company into the forest, a primary forest, very often roads are opened and poaching can go on.  People can start cutting legally and illegally, and so we enter into a pathway of destruction.”

Lejeune praises the agreement between the European Union and Cameroon, but says other Congo Basin countries must reach similar agreements and the deals must ensure Africans living in these regions reap some of the benefits.

This is a place where good trade policy and good environmental policy intersect. Illegal logging depresses timber prices and damages the environment.  This is a unique opportunity for Cameroon  to strengthen cooperation with the European Union to better protect it’s’s parks, forests and sensitive habitats from illegal logging.

It also helps to keep local communities who rely on forests for their livelihood locked in a cycle of poverty by reducing the income regional governments have to reinvest in their local economy and infrastructure.

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 certification ensures that consumers know the products have come from forests that are well-managed – meaning they take into account both environmental and social principles and criteria.

Here is the official press release.

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