• Cameroon

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Cameroon

Forest governance

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 Department of Forests (Direction des Forêts); (2) the Department of Forest Products Promotion and Transformation (Direction de la Promotion et de la Transformation des Produits Forestiers); and (3) the Department of Wildlife and Protected Areas (Direction de la Faune et des Aires Protégées).

Legal rights to harvest

Commercial forestry is primarily implemented in the permanent forest estate 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 (forêts communales). 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 (forêts Communautaires) 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.
  • Small permits (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.

Taxes and fees

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 (droit de sortie pour exportation): 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

Timber harvesting activities

Concessions are initially issued by means of a Provisional logging agreement (Convention provisoire d’exploitation). This agreement has a maximum duration of three years and is not renewable. Within three years following the signing of the provisional logging agreement, the concessionaire is required to carry out certain works, including the completion of a multi-resource inventory and the preparation of a management plan. The proper fulfilment of these obligations leads to the issuance by the Minister in charge of forests (MINFOF) of a certificate of compliance with the clauses of the provisional logging agreement. In this case, the holder of the said agreement can apply for the attribution of a definitive logging agreement (Convention définitive d’exploitation), 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 (Assiette Annuelle de Coupe - 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 Allowable Cuts area (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 (certificat annuel d’assiette de coupe) for FMUs with provisional agreements, or an Annual Operating Permit (Permis Annuel d’Opérations) for FMUs with a validated management plan) or a Certificate of Sale of a Standing Volume (Certificat de vente de coupe - 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 (convention de gestion) 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 log production report (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 report needs to be signed off by the authorities, who use it for determination of harvest tax.

Third parties’ rights

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.

Trade and transport

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 log production report (DF10).

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 Certificate of registration as a wood processor (Certificat d’enregistrement en qualité de transformateur de bois), demonstrating their legal existence as processing facility. Processed timber is transported using a Sawn timber waybill (Lettre de Voiture – Débités). In order to export timber the exporter needs to be in the possession of an Timber export authorization (Autorisation d’exportation de bois) covering the specific batch.