Boosting legal timber supply in Cameroon
This is one of the challenges faced by domestic markets in tropical timber producing countries
Around three-quarters of timber sold on Cameroon’s domestic market is of informal origin. This is one of the challenges faced by domestic markets in tropical timber producing countries, which are overwhelmingly supplied by small, often informal or illegal, operators. These operators often lack the capability to comply with complex legality requirements in the absence of adequate support structures.
Cameroon has made significant progress in addressing some of these domestic market issues through the formalization of domestic market operators and the creation of an association of local wood artisans to support legal compliance within the segment of the forest sector. However, four major challenges remain:
- insufficient monitoring the flow of legal timber on the domestic market;
- complex regulatory measures hindering formalization;
- low demand for legal timber; and
- lack of connections between buyers and sellers.
To address these challenges, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme partnered with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) to increase the use of legal timber within Cameroon’s domestic market.
Building on past achievements
In an initial FAO-EU FLEGT Programme-funded project (ESSOR Phase 1), CIFOR, with the support of MINFOF and CIRAD, designed a draft public procurement policy and conducted a series of communication and publicity campaigns to promote the use of legal timber amongst national administrations, public works companies, and the private sector.
Following these activities, Cameroon’s Ministries of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), Public Works (MINTP) and Public Contracts (MINMAP) worked together to validate the draft public procurement policy requiring the use of legally sourced timber in public tenders. The decree outlines measures to be taken by the MINFOF to increase the availability of legal timber in the domestic market, namely:
- facilitating the commercialization of wood waste products;
- assisting in the creation of timber supply contracts;
- facilitating the verification of timber legality by public work managers.
This policy was brought into effect after its signature by the Prime Minister and is expected to bring significant change in the government’s timber consumption estimated at 13 000 cubic metres per year.
Promoting legality through digital platforms
The project’s second phase (ESSOR Phase 2) turned its attention to increasing the availability of information around legal timber and providing a platform to promote wider use.
Collaborating with MINFOF, CIFOR developed a virtual platform offering information on species, volume, technical and commercial specifications of legally produced timber. The Marché Intérieur du Bois (MIB) platform offers further information on the volume of legal timber available on the domestic market from community forests, industrial companies, and communal forests.
With the support of CIFOR, MINFOF trained platform managers from 18 industrial companies, communal forest operators, and community forests to utilize the platform in their day-to-day operations. The use of the platform will become central to the implementation of Cameroon’s public procurement policy, providing a medium through which timber sellers can effectively and easily connect with buyers.
“The project has not only allowed community forests to sell their timber through the virtual platform but will also allow communities to establish a directory of timber buyers they can sell to, enabling more regular orders and harvests”, explained Mgbetkom Adamou, Head of Forestry Operations of Ngoume Community Forest.
Encouraging legal supply and demand
For many of Cameroon's informal timber producers, complex legal requirements for acquiring lumber permits are a significant barrier to formalisation. As such, CIFOR, in collaboration with GIZ, advocated for simplifying this process for wood artisans and private companies trading on the domestic market. Simplifying the issuance of permits should incentivize legal production and boost legal supply on the domestic market. The simplified lumber permits have been drafted and are awaiting examination and adoption by MINFOF.
Meanwhile, partnerships between the newly formalized suppliers and building and public works companies were established to promote adherence to the public procurement policy. Partnerships such as these will increase the demand for legal timber and provide a legal market for newly formalized suppliers.
The strong support of Cameroon’s government for the adoption of the public procurement policy and the development of the MIB platform has led to important progress towards legal compliance on the domestic market. Moving forward, concerned government agencies (MINFOF, MINTP and MINMAP) will seek ways to maintain and update the platform and promote it as an essential tool for the country’s forest industry.
Read more about the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme’s experiences, best practices, and lessons learned drawn from working with micro, small and medium enterprises and other areas of support here.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.
Since 2016, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has supported 30 projects in Cameroon, amounting to over USD 3 350 000.