According to the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (2018), Cameroon has about 22 million hectares of forests, or nearly 46% of the total country area. 26 000 hectares (0.1% of the forest area) is categorised as planted forest. Forest land cover in Cameroon has declined for the last 25 years with a loss of around 1.0% forest cover per year, which is one of the highest deforestation rates in the Congo Basin.
The main drivers of deforestation in Cameroon are (i) conversion to agriculture, from both large and medium-scale plantations, as well as smallholders, (ii) fuel-wood harvesting, (iii) mining and (iv) infrastructure development. Unsustainable and illegal logging is also to blame for the degradation of Cameroon's forests. Illegal logging has long been recognised as a significant problem in Cameroon. Concerns have been raised over the misuse of certain logging permits in the country, and the lack of effective regulation and law enforcement (Hoare, 2015).
Cameroon’s forests are mainly tropical rainforests of two predominant types: lowland evergreen (54% of total forest area), and lowland semi-deciduous (28%). The evergreen forests can be divided into two broad categories: The Biafran forests, a low altitude coastal forest along the Gulf of Guinea, and the Congo Basin forests in Cameroon’s south and southeast. Biafran forests have been largely cleared, but where it still exists, it is characterised by species such as Azobé (Lophira alata) and Ozouga (Sacoglottis gabonensis). The composition of species in the Guinean-Congolese forests differs significantly from that of the Biafran forest due to the absence of gregarious Caesalpiniacae, with the notable exception of the Limbali (Gilbertiodendron dewevrei). Another characteristic is the significant number of Moabi (Baillonella toxisperma). Other commercial tree species harvested include Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum) and Sipo (Entandrophragma utile) and Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon). The dense semi-deciduous medium-altitude forest is characterised by its abundance of Sterculiaceae. They are particularly rich in species that lend themselves to peeling (FAO).
The Forest Law (1994) divides the forest area into non-permanent (domaine forestier non-permanent), including community forest and private forest, and permanent (domaine forestier permanent) forest areas. The permanent forest includes forest reserves, logging concessions, protected areas and council forests. Protected areas, including national parks, forest reserves and hunting zones, currently cover 20 per cent of the national forest area. (WRI, 2017).The permanent forest areas are owned by the state, although for a large part of this forest area the management rights are transferred to other parties. Generally, people living in forest areas fully retain their traditional user rights.
In the non-PFE (domaine forestier non-permanent) non-allocated lands are mainly used by local communities for farms and other purposes, and allocation of these lands to communities shall follow formal procedures. However, disputes over forest ownership and the demarcation of boundaries have been common in the past and remain so today (ITTO, 2011).
Production and export
In 2019, MINOF declared 93 forest concessions, 38 communal forests, 142 timber sales and approximately 50 community forests. These forest titles are managed by about 50 large international or national companies (59), about 40 medium-sized national companies (46) and about 30 rural communes (38) that own communal forests (I2D, 2019).
According to MINFOF (2018), Cameroon's logging industry produced approximately 3.3 million metres of logs in 2017. Most of this volume is used for the export of products from primary processing, which represents a total export value of US$933.7 million in 2018 (ITTO 2019, data 2018).
Although the majority of the logs are processed within the country, the production of highly processed products is still relatively rare. The forest industry mainly produces primary timber products, with the main export products being logs, sawnwood, plywood and veneer.
The most harvested species between 2010 and 2016 (FRMi 2018) are:
- Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon)
- Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
- Tali (Erythrophleum ivorense; Erythrophleum suaveolens)
- Azobé (Lophira alata)
- Okan (Cylicodiscus gabunensis)
- Iroko (Milicia excelsa)
- Padouk (Pterocarpus soyauxi)
- Kossipo (Entandrophragma candollei)
- Fraké (Terminalia superba)
- Dabéma (Piptadeniastrum africanum)
The Cameroonian exports are sold to all regions of the world. Besides overland export routes to other African countries, most timber is exported via the main port of Douala. This port is also used as one of the main ports for the export of timber harvested in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Sources of information
- FAO (2015) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015
- Hiolhiol, F. (2019) Etat des lieux des acteurs du secteur privé de la filière Foret-Bois au Cameroun
- Fordaq - Timbertrade network
- BAD (2018) Rapport stratégique régional. Développement intégré et durable de la filière bois 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 Cameroun
- ITC (2020) List of import markets for wood products from Cameroon
- ITTO (2011) SFM Tropics
- ITTO (2018) Biennial Review and Assesment of the World Timber Situation
- Hoare, A. (2015) Illegal Logging and Related Trade: The Response in Cameroon
- WRI (2017) Cameroon
- Ministry of Forests and Wildlife
- Protected planet - Cameroon
- Forest Atlas Cameroon
The Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune – MINFOF) is primarily responsible for forest policy, the forest legislative framework and the enforcement of forest laws, as well as for international conventions with respect to forests and wildlife. Within MINFOF there are three main technical directorates dealing with forestry: (1) the Direction des Forêts; (2) the Direction de la Promotion et de la Transformation des Produits Forestiers; and (3) the Direction de la Faune et des Aires Protégées.
Commercial forestry is primarily implemented in the permanent forest domain through industrial logging concessions which are allocated by public tender both to Cameroonian and foreign entities. Forest Management Units (Unités Forestières d’Aménagement – UFA) are the basic unit of harvesting with a maximum size of 200,000 hectares and are managed on the basis of 30 years. A forest concession consists of one or several UFAs. According to their license contracts, holders of forest concessions must link their concessions with industrial processing units, thus providing stable employment in remote rural communities and additional revenue flows for the state (ITTO, 2011).
Besides forest concessions there are various other types of Forest Exploitation Titles (WRI, 2012), which include:
- Council forests. Rural councils have the legal right to apply for a forest estate within the permanent forest domain, following the preparation of a management plan approved by the forest administration. Council forests are essentially forest concessions, but they are under the jurisdiction of the rural council instead of the national government and can be leased out for logging rights during a public bidding process.
- Community forests are areas within the non-permanent forest domain zoned for exclusive use by village communities. A village community seeking a forest title identifies a zone not exceeding 5,000 ha and submits an application to the Government. Once the application is approved, a 2-year (non-renewable) provisional convention is signed between the Government and the community. During this period the community elaborates a simple management plan. It is after the approval of the management plan by MINFOF that the community can enter into permanent convention for 25 year renewable.
- Sales of Standing Volume (Vente de coupe) is a short-term, volume-based logging permit typically zoned within the non-permanent forest domain. Allocated through a competitive bidding process, these permits are valid for a maximum of 3 years and must not exceed 2,500 ha. A management plan is not required to be operational. Prior to granting this permit the MINFOF must ask the surrounding communities if they would prefer the creation of a community forest.
- Petits Titres, which is a category grouping together smaller-volume logging permits that cover situations not described in other titles. It includes timber recuperation permits (autorisation de récupération des bois - ARBs), timber evacuation permits (autorisation d’enlèvement des bois abattus - AEBs) and personal logging permits (autorisations personnelles de coupe - APCs). As a group, petits titres are attributed in the non-permanent forest domain to Cameroon nationals for a year.
Various taxes are related to forest concessions' forestry activities and sales of standing volume:
- The main one is the RFA (redevance forestière annuelle - annual forest tax), which is determined during the call for tenders to obtain a forest concession. Half of the RFA is paid to the state, the other half to the villages (in theory, 1/5th of this fee is set aside to fund community-based development projects). The amounts vary according to supply, with a minimum price of 1,000 CFA francs per hectare (about 1.50€) for forest concessions, and 2,500 CFA francs (3.80€) for sales of standing volume;
- The other forest tax is the TA (taxe d’abattage - felling tax), which represents 4% of the FOB value of the total volume of logs that are felled (on the basis of DF10 site registers) according to the 2019 finance law.
- Other taxes specifically apply to the forestry and timber processing industries:
- The exit tax for export: 35% for logs and 10% for finished and semi-finished lumber.
- The SE (surtaxe à l'exportation - export surcharge) on logs, ranging from 500 to 4,000 CFA francs (approximately 6.10€) per cubic metre depending on the species.
These values fluctuate and must in principle be revised every six months by revising the species' FOB values.
It should be noted that the TEU (taxe entrée usine - factory entry tax) was discontinued in 2019, but the factory entry notebooks remain in place.
Forestry companies are also subject to general taxes and duties, such as VAT and corporate taxes. For companies operating under the real profit tax regime, a first payment representing 1% of turnover must be made no later than the 15th of the following month. This initial payment is increased by 10% in respect of additional municipal taxes.
Concessions are initially issued by means of a Convention provisoire d’exploitation. This provisional exploitation contract has a maximum duration of three years, and is not renewable. Within three years following the signing of the provisional agreement, the concessionaire is required to carry out certain works, including the completion of a multi-resource inventory and the preparation of a development plan. The proper fulfilment of these obligations leads to the issuance by the Minister in charge of forests of a certificate of compliance with the clauses of the provisional exploitation agreement. In this case, the holder of the said agreement can apply for the attribution of a definitive logging agreement, valid for 15 years and renewable once. The definitive logging agreement is granted in the form of a forest concession, by decree of the Prime Minister, Head of Government. The management plan is the planning schedule for technical interventions designed to ensure the sustainable management of the various resources on the relevant surface area. It is drawn up for 30 years and is revised every five years. This long-term management plan must be approved by the MINFOF. The management plan divides the area into various zones, including conservation and production. The latter is divided into 6 five-year equal-volume management units, which are in turn divided into 5 Annual Allowable Cuts (AAC). In total, the FMU is divided into 30 AACs.
Before commencing harvest an annual operating plan is prepared by the company for the annual block of harvest (AAC), which is, together with a set of other documents, submitted to the Directorate of Forests for verification and approval. After approval, the central authorities (Directorate of Forests) issue an Annual Allowable Cut Certificate (for FMUs with provisional agreements) or an Annual Operating Permit (for FMUs with a validated management plan) or a Certificate of Sale of a Standing Volume (for sales of trees to be harvested) specifying the details of the authorised harvest, including the volume and the species. In addition, the concessionaire must request and obtain a Notification of commencement of activities from the regional forestry delegation.
Regarding the community forests (CF - forêts communautaires), they are transferred by the State to a community at the request of the latter (through a constituted association) and after the drafting of a Basic Management Plan (PSG - Plan Simple de Gestion), which manages it following the signature of a management agreement between this village community association and the administration in charge of forests. The management of this forest (which must not exceed 5,000 ha) is the responsibility of the community, with technical assistance provided by the forest administration. The rotation period in a CF is 25 years, the duration of the management agreement signed between the community and the forest administration.
In order to be able to operate their CF, the communities must obtain an Annual Logging Certificate (CAE - Certificat Annuel d’Exploitation) from the Directorate of Forests on the basis of an annual activity plan and after submission of various documents (a report on the verification of the materialisation of the boundaries of the annual plot, a certificate of verification of the materialisation of these boundaries, a certificate of appraisal of the logging inventory report, and a certificate of conformity of the logging inventory report).
Harvested logs need to be recorded in a worksite book (Carnet de chantier - DF10) for the specific forest management unit (UFA) and harvest block (AAC) the species, log dimensions and the corresponding barcode on a daily basis. This worksite book needs to be signed off by the authorities, who use it for determination of harvest tax.
The populations living near the FMUs are involved in the implementation of management measures through 2 organisational structures: the Farmer-Forest Committees (CPF - Comités Paysans-Forêts), which are created under the impetus of the forest administration, and the Management Plan Monitoring Committees (CSPA - Comités de Suivi du Plan d’Aménagement), which can be set up by the companies (and are not a legal obligation).
Companies contribute to local development through the payment of a forest tax, the RFA (Redevance Forestière Annuelle - Annual Forest Tax), the amount of which is indicated in the provisional logging agreement (the amount is obtained by multiplying the company's proposal by the surface area). The total amount paid by the company is split between the State (50%) and the local beneficiary towns (50%, including 6.75% for projects led by the local residents). The share of the RFA intended for the local communities is managed by a management committee whose creation is - like the CPFs - also provided for by law: the resident committees.
For the transport of logs, loggers must obtain secure waybill books (logs and sawn timber). For the transport of the logs a waybill (Lettre de voiture - grumes) is used, which needs to be signed by the authorities. The waybills list each product's reference number (logs and sawn timber), i.e. a no. DF10 or a package number, dimensions and volume, species, place of departure and destination, lorry identification, etc. The details of the transported logs on this waybill need to correspond with the details in the worksite book.
Logs received by the processing facility are recorded in a secure Factory Wood Entry Register (Carnet d’entrée usine) which must be regularly submitted to the authorities as it is used to determine the sawmill entry tax. Processing facilities need to be in the possession of a Certificat d’enregistrement en qualité de transformateur de bois, demonstrating their legal existence as processing facility. Processed timber is transported using a waybill for processed timber (Lettre de Voiture – Débités). In order to export timber the exporter needs to be in the possession of an export authorisation (Autorisation d’exportation de bois – AEB) covering the specific batch.
The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin. The full list of applicable legislation is accessible (NEPCon).
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
There is an export ban in place for exports of logs of the following species:
- Acajou (Khayaanthotheca)
- Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata)
- Aningré (Aningeria altissima)
- Bété (Mansonia altissima)
- Bossé (Guarea cedrata)
- Bubinga (Guibourtia tessmannii; Guibourtia demeusei)
- Dibétou (Lovoa trichiliodes)
- Douka (Tieghemella heckelii; Tieghemella africana)
- Fromager (Ceiba pentandra)
- Ilomba (Pycnanthus angolensis)
- Iroko (Milicia excelsa)
- Longhi (Gambeya spp.)
- Moabi (Baillonella toxiperma)
- Movingui (Distemonanthus benthamianus)
- Ovangkol (Guibourtia ehie)
- Padouk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)
- Pao rosa (Bobgunnia fistuloides)
- Red Doussié (Afzelia bipidensis)
- Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
- Sipo (Entandrophragma utile)
- Wengué (Millettia laurentii)
- White Doussié (Afzelia pachyloba)
- Zingana (Microberlinia bisulcata)
The export of Ayous, Azobé and Framiré logs is subject to the obtaining of quotas, which are auctioned off by the Minister in charge of forests.
Cites and protected species
There are two tree species listed on CITES Appendix II from Cameroon:
- Afrormosia (Pericopsiselata), with a quota of 7 500 m3 of sawn wood in 2019.
- Red stinkwood (Prunus africana); with a quota of 455 000 kg of dry bark for 2019.
The exploitation of Bubinga (Guibourtiatessmannii; Guibourtiademeusei) and Wengue (Millettialaurentii) has been suspended on the whole extent of the national domain since 2012, until these species are listed on the CITES appendices. 3 species of Guibourtia (tessmanii, pellegriniana and demeusei) are now listed in Appendix 2 of the CITES, but Cameroon still hasn't lifted its harvesting ban.
National action on timber legality
Cameroon signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union in May 2010. The aims of the VPA are to strengthen forest governance, promote Cameroon's timber products and improve Cameroon's competitiveness in the international marketplace. The VPA also encourages investment in sustainable forest management and strengthens the capacity of forest stakeholders. Cameroon is currently developing the systems needed to control, verify and license legal timber, which include the development of a SIGIF II database (Système Informatique de Gestion des Informations Forestières, or Digitalised Forest Management Information System) which will be used to ensure timber traceability.
Third party certification
Forest certification progressed rapidly in Cameroon until 2016, with nearly 940,945 hectares of forest still covered by FSC forest management certificates. Due to the shutdown of the country's two main forestry companies (Wijma and Rougier), the certification process experienced a reversal during the last two years, with only 341,708 ha of FSC-certified forests remaining in the country by the end of 2019 (one certificate awarded to Pallisco and its partners). As of 2019, Cameroon had approximately 2.6 million hectares of forests certified according to Bureau Veritas' OLB system. OLB stands for Origine et Légalité des Bois (Timber Origin and Legality). Cameroon also has FSC CW/FM certificates (FSC Controlled Wood) and Legal Source certificates (Nepcon) accounting for around 400,000 hectares (ATIBT, 2019).
In Cameroon, PAFC Cameroon (the national forest management certification scheme which was recognised by PEFC at the end of 2019) will have to be replaced by the PAFC Congo Basin scheme as soon as it is implemented (following its recognition by PEFC). Moreover, an initial regional workshop for the development of the PAFC certification standards for the Congo Basin was held in Libreville in November 2019, and allowed stakeholders to agree on the first versions of the sustainable forest management and chain of custody standards. As the PAFC Cameroon standard hasn't been completed and the sub-regional standard is still in the development process, there are no forests certified according to the PAFC system.
Sources of information
- Hiolhiol, F. (2019) Etat des lieux des acteurs du secteur privé de la filière Foret-Bois au Cameroun
- Bureau Veritas : liste des organisme certifiés OLB Exploitant Forestier
- Cameroon – EU (2010) Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Cameroon on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)
- CITES database
- Cameroun APV FLEGT site internet
- Décret N° 99/781/PM du 13 octobre 1999 fixant les modalités d’application de l’article71 de la loi n°94/01 du 20 janvier 1994 portant régime des forêts, de la faune et de la pêche.
- EU FLEGT Facility - Cameroon
- Ministry of Forest and Wildlife (Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune)
- Transparency International, Corruption Index
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Source: Transparancy International