According to an AfDB study conducted by FRMi in 2018, Gabon has about 22.3 million hectares of forest areas, which represents 87% of the nation's total area. Almost all of the forest area consists of primary or naturally regenerated forests.
There are three major forest types:
- Evergreen rainforest in the west, which has been heavily harvested, degraded and in some areas reduced to secondary forest characterized by the species Okoumé (Aucomeaklaineana), one of the most important species of the Gabonese timber sector, and Ozigo (Dacryodesbuettneri);
- Closed humid central Gabonese forest, covering most of the country, with many species found to similar forests found elsewhere in the region such as Azobé (Lophiraalata), Mahogany species (Entandrophragma spp. and Khaya spp.), Aiélé (Canariumschweinfurthii) and Ayous (Triplochitonscleroxylon);
- Semi-deciduous forest type in the northeast, characterized by trees such as Limba (Terminalia superba), Wengé (Millettialaurentii) and Ayous (Triplochitonscleroxylon).
The full 100% of the Gabonese forests is owned by the state, although the management of the forest areas can be divided into three different categories:
- Production forests which are managed by private concessionaires, although the management rights are exclusively administered by the state.
- Protection forests, which are directly managed by the state. Gabon has 13 national parks and some other protected areas, covering together approximately 12% of the country.
- The domaine rural, which is generally land and forest where rural communities and forest dwellers are free to exercise their customary rights, provided that they respect the conditions imposed by the forest administration.
With a low overall population density and large forest area Gabon faces a relatively low forest loss of 0.12% per year and an average degradation rate of 0.09%. The main causes for deforestation are small-scale agriculture established along roadways and urban development, while the main causes of forest degradation are industrial mining and illegal logging in opened-up areas.
Production and export
According to the August 2018 study conducted by FRM entitled "FAC-2030: a strategic vision and the industrialisation of Central Africa's timber sector through 2030", it appears that:
- Gabon is a significant Congo Basin log producer, accounting for 23% of the region's production, behind Cameroon 44% and Congo 24%.
- The ban on log exports has caused national production to fall from 3 million m³ in the early 2000s to 1.5/1.6 million m³ currently.
Among the species currently harvested, there are mainly 24 species:
- Abura (Fleroyaledermannii)
- Acajou (KhayaivorensisetKhayaanthotheca)
- Andoung (Monopetalanthusspp, Tetraberliniapolyphylla and Toubaouatebrevipaniculata)
- Azobé (Lophiraalata)
- Beli Brun andBeli Rouge (Julbernardiapellegriniana)
- Bilinga (Naucleadiderrichii)
- Bosséclair (GuareacedrataetGuarealaurentii)
- Dabema (Piptadeniastrumafricanum)
- Dibetou (Lovoatrichilioïdes)
- Doussié (Afzeliabipindensiset A. pachyloba)
- Iroko (Miliciaexcelsa)
- Izombé (Testuleagabonensis)
- Kosipo (Entandrophragmacandollei)
- Movingui (Distemonanthusbenthamianus)
- Niové (Staudtiaspp.)
- Okan (Cylicodiscusgabunensis)
- Okoumé (Aucoumeaklaineana)
- Ovengkol (Guibourtiaehie)
- Padouk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)
- Sapelli (Entandrophragmacylindricum)
- Tali (Erythrophleumivorense)
- Tola (Gossweilerodendronbalsamiferum)
- Zingana (Microberliniabrazzavillensis)
Okoumé is the "flagship" species of Gabon's production, accounting for over 60% of the logs produced there.
With the 2009 ban on log exports and the obligation for log producers to process their product on site, three types of operators can now be distinguished in Gabon:
- Those that are integrated from the forest concession to the processing plant, often with a good commercial capacity for export. They produce and process almost all of their log production. They also sell logs to the other local processors;
- Logging companies without a processing plant that only specialise in logging (logging operations alone). They are perhaps the ones that initially suffered most from the consequences of the log export ban;
- Industrial loggers, who have their own processing plant but no forest concession. There are many of them today and this is a major regional development. They may encounter difficulties procuring logs.
The number of timber processing units has increased from 82 plants in 2009 to 162 plants in 2017/2018, or 80 plants implanted during the last 8 years. This trend has continued with the installation of additional processing units, bringing the total number to 197 units in 2020 with 70 units installed in the Nkok Special Economic Zone (SEZ). (Central Africa Forest Observatory (OFAC) - Years 2015 to 2017, DGF cited in the August 2018 FRMi study). It should be noted that timber processing units with Asian capital have increased the most, at the expense of processing units with European capital.
The industrial players producing the largest volumes of processed timber in Gabon: in addition to the Rougier Group, two companies, CORA WOOD and PWG-CEB, each produce over 65,000 m³ of processed timber per year (2017 data). The other main timber processors have volumes of around 20,000 m³ per year. Industrial timber production increased from 600,000 m³ in 2007 to almost 800,000 m³ in 2016, an increase of almost 35%.
Industrial production in Gabon is very clearly dominated by sawn timber (accounting for over 70% of production) but Gabon stands out from the other countries of the Sub-Region thanks to its relatively significant production of plywood/veneers (Gabon is a top 5 world exporter of tropical timber veneers).
In 2009, the Gabonese government decided to completely ban log exports. This measure was implemented in 2010. Industrial production volumes exported are dominated by the sawn timber segment (over 85% of sawn timber produced in Gabon is exported).
Exports in 2019
Prior to the log export ban decision, forest product exports were clearly dominated by logs, shipped mainly to Asian countries.
After the log export ban, processed timber exports to Asian countries initially declined (from 2009 to 2010), and then export volumes gradually increased until 2013, with a period of stagnation observed from 2013 to 2014. Currently, over 40% of timber product exports are destined for China. Europe imports around 30% of industrial timber production.
In terms of logistical infrastructures, Gabon has two main ports for timber exports:
- The port of Port-Gentil
- The port of Owendo (near the capital, Libreville)
The country also has sites under customs authority, which are used to transport forest products towards the port of Owendo. These are:
- The dry port of Franceville
- The hub in Lastourville
- And the Nkok SEZ (a Special Economic Zone with a one-stop counter)
Sources of information
- FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
- Fordaq - timbertrade network
- BAD (2018) Rapport stratégique régional. Développement intégré et durable de la filièrembois dans le Bassin du Congo: opportunités, défis et recommandations opérationnelles.
- FRMi (2018) FAC -2030 : vision stratégique et industrialisation de la Filière Bois en Afrique Centrale- Horizon 2030 – Rapport Pays Gabon
- ITC (2019) List of import markets for wood products from Gabon
- ITTO (2011) SFM Tropics
- ITTO (2018) Biennial Review and Assesment of the World Timber Situation
- Information Leaflet from l’Union des Forestiers Industriels du Gabon et Aménagistes (UFIGA).
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Gabon
- UFIGA, ATIBT & ROSCEVAC (2019) Etats des lieux des acteurs du secteur privé de la filière forêt-bois au Gabon
- Tableau de Bord de l’Economie Gabonaise, situation 2018, perspectives 2019-2020
The Ministry of Water, Forestry, the Sea, and the Environment, which is responsible for the Climate Plan, Sustainable Development Objectives, and the Land Use Plan, oversees the management and monitoring of Gabon's forest resources, including the attribution of forest concessions. The World Resources Institute conducts a detailed analysis of Gabon's forest concessions. Concessions can only be granted to companies with valid registrations with the economic, social and forestry authorities.
The Forest Code makes the management of allocated forest concessions, as well as the processing of timber, mandatory. It also provides for three types of forest permits: the forest concession under sustainable management (CFAD - Concession Forestière sous Aménagement Durable), the associated forest permit (PFA - Permis Forestier Associé), the mutual agreement permit (PGG - Permis de Gré à Gré) and the community forests.
The national forest domain includes a permanent forest domain (dedicated to the attribution of concessions and for Protected Areas) and a rural forest domain.
In the permanent forest domain, Gabon recognises two types of forest management permits, which are attributed by auction:
1) CFAD - Concession forestière sous aménagement durable (Forest concession under sustainable management), with a minimum area of 50,000 hectares and a maximum area of 200,000 hectares, whereas the total area allocated to a single holder cannot exceed 600,000 hectares.
2) PFA - Permis forestier associé (Associated forest permit), reserved exclusively for Gabonese nationals. The surface area of a PFA cannot exceed 15,000 hectares when it is integrated into a CFAD and 50,000 hectares when it is subject to management by its holder.
In the rural forest sector, there are Community Forests (FC) which are portions assigned to a village community to carry out activities or undertake dynamic processes for the sustainable management of natural resources based on a simplified management plan.
To obtain a comprehensive operating license, the applicant needs an exploration permit for an initial inventory of the concession and its maximum validity is for 12 months. With the results of this inventory, the applicant can apply for a Provisional Development –Operating– Processing Agreement (CPAET: Convention provisoire d’aménagement – exploitation – transformation) (as ofearly 2020, this represents: 1,504,686 ha), with a maximum validity of 3 years. During this period, the concessionaire has the right to benefit from three Provisional Annual Allowable Cuts (AACp - Assiettes Annuelles de Coupe provisoire), representing a maximum of 10% of the concession's total surface area. The management of each AACp is covered by an Annual Operating Plan.
During these three years, the concessionaire must prepare a management plan, which must be approved by the forest authorities. When the Management Plan is approved, a decree by the Prime Minister establishing the Forest Concession under Sustainable Management (CFAD - Concession Forestière sous Aménagement Durable) (representing 13,299,456 ha in 2020) is published.
All processing and manufacturing companies must have the appropriate licenses and permits to process timber and they need an industrialisation plan approved by the forest authorities. Mill inputs and outputs must be recorded in the quarterly reports on logs received, and forestry companies involved in logging and timber processing must maintain quarterly and annual records for the forest administration.
Although the Forest Code provides for a log processing rate of at least 75%, this rate is now 100% as a result of the decision to ban the export of timber in the form of logs. This decision was made by the Gabonese Head of State during the Council of Ministers on 5 November 2009 and fully implemented as of 15 May 2010.
The General Tax Code (CGI - Code Général des Impôts), which brings together all of the texts relating to taxation, consists of five books:
i. Taxes on profits and income;
ii. Taxes on turnover;
iii. Miscellaneous taxes and duties;
iv. Registration and stamp duties;
v. Taxation procedures common to books 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The timber sector is taken into account in book 3 on "Miscellaneous taxes and duties", of which section 3 deals with "Specific taxes". This 3rd book consists of four sections: Section one: Business taxes; Section two: Property taxes; Section three: Specific taxes; Section four: Flat-rate housing tax.
In the 3rd section, one of the chapters deals with forestry taxation specific to timber resources. The forestry law provides for taxes and duties for the attribution, possession, renewal and transfer of any title for the exploitation, processing, marketing and export of timber products. These include in particular:
- The felling tax
- The surface area tax
- The renewal tax
- The transfer tax
- The tax on processing by saw with a chainsaw
- The exit taxes
- The farm tax
- Forest charges
The rate and basis for the assessment of duties, fees and taxes are determined by the finance law (adopted annually).
The management plan should cover a 20-30 year rotation, and allow the forest to be divided into 4, 5 or 6 Forest Management Units (FMUs). The management plan specifies parameters such as the cutting rotation, silvicultural treatments, the list of species authorised for harvest and the minimum harvest diameter for each species.
Each of the FMUs requires a management plan, establishing a subdivision into Annual Allowable Cuts (AACs). For each allowable cut, a full operational inventory of the managed species must be carried out and enable the drafting of an Annual Operations Plan (PAO - Plan Annuel d’Opérations). The PAO specifies the surface area that is harvested annually, the species, the number of trees and the gross volumes that can be harvested in this area.
Prior to issuing the AAC authorisation to operate, a set of documents must be approved by the provincial forest administration authorities, including the AAC's annual operating plan (PAO) and the observational report of the opening of the AAC boundaries. Indeed, the concessionaire opens the AAC boundaries, carries out a logging inventory and submits the AAC PAO plan to the decentralised Water and Forestry departments. The Forest Administration analyses the PAO, and carries out a field mission to check whether the boundaries have indeed been opened and draws up a report on the opening of these AAC boundaries.
An allowable cut block can be opened over a period of up to three years. At the end of this period, or rather if the concessionaire so wishes, an AAC closure report must be provided to the administration containing all ofthe data relating to this AAC (production, sales, social activity, etc.). After a check, the administration issues an AAC closure report. It is then forbidden to operate in this cut area until the next rotation.
A Site Register is filled in for the annual harvest, specifying details on the harvested logs, such as the species, their ID number, their volume, the number of logs shaped and their dimensions and other relevant details. All the harvested logs and the corresponding stumps must bear a unique ascending number and an imprint of the company's log stamp hammer. The hammer's mark is specific to the company and registered with the forest administration and judicial authorities. Each shaped log must bear an ID number including the ID number of the initial log, in order to facilitate identification during transport. The concessionaire must provide the administration with a quarterly statement of production and inventories (in practice, loggers prepare monthly statements).
At the end of each calendar year, the concessionaire must produce an annual production report that includes all monthly data.
With regard to environmental protection, we should mention three elements:
- The obligation to comply with the Low-Impact Operating Rules in all concessions;
- The obligation to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIE - Étude d’Impact Environnementale) if the Forest Management Unit to be opened covers part of a buffer zone of a Reserve or Natural Park, or when setting up a timber processing plant;
- The obligation to establish and adhere to a Wildlife Protection Plan (PPF - Plan de Protection de la Faune), which makes it possible to define, programme and control the actions to be implemented to ensure effective wildlife protection.
In order for the local populations to reap benefits from the operation, the concessionaire is required to sign a Contractual Bill of Specifications (CCC - Cahier des Charges Contractuelles) one year after operations have started. This is a contract signed between the forest concessionaire, the village communities, the local communities and the forest administration, which determines the rules for sharing the profits from logging with the relevant communities and outlines the commitments of the concessionaire and the communities regarding the provision/use of this Fund. A Project Management and Follow-Up Committee (CGSP - Comité de Gestion et de Suivi des Projets) is established in order to conduct negotiations between villages to establish their farming area map, and then to establish the terms for the distribution of the Local Development Fund (FDL - Fonds de Développement Local), which is funded by the concessionaire (up to 800 CFA francs/m³ harvested during the previous year). The CGSP meets regularly to select the projects that will benefit from the funds and the implementation of these projects.
With regard to the management of Community Forests (FC - Forêts Communautaires), the population of a village or group of villages creates a legal management entity, often in the form of a village association. The latter submits a request to the local forest authorities for the creation of a Community Forest. Information meetings must be held, including participatory mapping of the relevant area. The entire population needs to understand the process, especially the women, the youths and the minority ethnic groups. A Provisional Convention is signed (in early 2020: 51 final conventions, 40 provisional conventions and 1 association per convention). An FC Management Plan can then be prepared with the assistance of the forest authorities. This includes the division of the forest to be harvested into 4 blocks (harvestable for 5 years each) and the results of a full inventory of the first block. Once this Management Plan is approved, a Definitive Management Agreement for the FC is signed. The Management Plan includes the map of the areas to be harvested and those pertaining to other uses, the list of inventoried species, the number of trees and their diameters. The Management Plan can include management rules for activities other than logging.
The log transport documents must be completed before leaving the harvesting site and must be kept during transport. These documents enable the origin of the logs to be traced back to the harvesting site and they match those in the site register.
The delivery of logs to processing plants or other points of sale is accounted for in the quarterly statements to forest authorities.
The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin. An overview of applicable legislation and its scope is accessible here (Forest Legality Initiative).
Bans and quota
Gabon has an export ban on logs and roundwood since 15 May 2010.
Cites and protected species
In Gabon, there is currently one type of wood listed in Appendix II of CITES, namely Kévazingo (Bubinga), of which 3 species are listed (Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana and Guibourtia tessmannii). The export of this species is subject to additional CITES requirements. However, since the end of 2015 the exploitation of these species has been prohibited (Decree No. 347/MPERNFM/CAB and Decree No. 00099/PR/MFE).
The following 4 species are listed as protected from exploitation since January 1st, 2009 for a period of 25 years (decree n°0137/PR/MEFEPA):
- Afo (Pogaoleosa)
- Andok (Irvingiagabonensis)
- Douka, Makoré (Tieghemellaafricana)
- Moabi (Baillonnellatoxisperma)
Decree no. 350/PR/MPERNFM of 7 June 2016 outlines the conditions in which Ozigo can be harvested.
National action on timber legality
Gabon is negotiating a VPA with the EU, and negotiations started in September 2010.The new Minister, Mr. Lee White, has recently expressed interest in resuming VPA/FLEGT negotiations with the EU through a letter to the EU dated December 2019.
The draft Forest Code that had been submitted to the National Assembly for consideration was withdrawn by the current Minister to take into account the new concerns, namely:
- Environmental issues
- Sea fishing issues
Third party certification
In 2019, Gabon's President announced that all logging concessions must be certified by 2022. Any concessionaire not engaged in a certification process by that date could lose its logging rights.
Private sustainable management certification
FSC - 2,062,190 ha
PAFC (PEFC) - 596,822 ha
Private legality+ certification
FSC CW/FM - 235,593 ha
OLB (BVç) - 0 ha
LS (Nepcon) - 321,428 ha
TLV (CU) - 431,528 ha
On October 26 and 27, 2020, the PAFC BC forest certification standard was validated, see article ATIBT.
Quartier Bas de GuéGué (Immeuble IVALA)
The Agency is a public entity with an administrative nature, with a Board of Directors and a Chairman of the Board. It benefits from financial and administrative management autonomy.
Quartier SANTA CLARA
- Ensure the preservation of national parks and their natural resources;
- To work towards the efficient development of the national park network;
- To promote the national parks and their resources.
Quartier Bas de Gué Gué (Immeuble IVALA)
The objectives of the project are to:
- Reinforcematerial means (infrastructures, equipment) for the Ministry of Forests (MEF) to inspect theforests;
- Reinforce the technical capabilities of the MEF and its decentraliseddepartments in terms of forest inspections (implementation of tools, training);
- Provide independent proof of the effectiveness and quality of the inspections carried out by the MEF.
- Create a public/private consultation framework to better manage changes or mutations;
- Create the Maison du Bois (House of Timber), an appropriate consultation framework for sector stakeholders, and promote lesser-known species as well as timber products and derivatives;
- Support the forest-timber sector and forestry and/or timber processing companies according to their activity sectors.
The school is located at Cap Esterias, approximately 30 kilometres from Libreville.
There are two types of certification under the PAFC Gabon label, namely:
- Sustainable forest management certification
- Chain of custody certification
Sustainable forest management certification attests to compliance with the environmental, societal and economic functions of forest management. It guarantees the enforcement of rules defined by all forest stakeholders (owners, loggers and forestry contractors). PAFC Gabon has developed a guide for the interpretation of the sustainable forest management standard.
PAFC chain of custody certification is issued to companies by an independent certification body. It consists in following certified timber from the forest, and throughout the processing and marketing chain, with the result being PAFC-certified finished product.
Immeuble Horizon, Boulevard Omar Bongo Ondimba Sainte Marie
- Increasing and promoting the presence of Gabonese economic operators within the sector.
- Defending the interests of small and medium-sized companies in terms of forestry and industrialization issues.
- Establishing partnerships with the administration's technical departments.
- Analysing and disseminating information on the development of new international markets through our respective companies.
Managing Director: Mr Auguste NDOUNA ANGO
BP: 775 Libreville Gabon, Boulevard Omar BONGO ONDIMBA, Sainte Marie
For plants and wildlife: the General Directorate of Fauna and Protected Areas (DGFAP) of the Ministry of Forests.
Managing Director: Mr Lucien MASSOUKOU
BP : 775 Libreville Gabon, Boulevard Omar BONGO ONDIMBA, Sainte Marie
Quartier HAUT DE GUE GUE
Source: Transparancy International