• Central African Republic

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Central African Republic

Forest governance

Forest management is currently governed by the forestry law enacted in 2008. Contrary to the other countries of the sub-region, the Ministry in charge of Forests is responsible for the drawing up of the Management Plans of the attributed permits. From 2000 to 2011, the Ministry received support from the PARPAF (Projet d'Appui à la Réalisation des Plans d'Aménagement Forestier - Project to Support the Implementation of Forest Management Plans) to manage a significant portion of the production forests. Following the completion of this project, the AGDRF (Agence de Gestion Durable des Ressources Forestières - Agency for the Sustainable Management of Forest Resources) was created in 2012 (law no. 12.006) to monitor the implementation of management plans already drawn up and to draw up management plans for permits that don't have one yet. As of October 2016, the AGDRF is backed by the PDRSO (Projet de Développement Régional du Sud-Ouest - South-West Regional Development Project).

Legal rights to harvest

Official authorization for logging must be obtained from the services of the Ministry of Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing (Ministère des Eaux, Forêts, Chasse et Pêche – MEFCP).

Logging operations take place in the production forests and cutting areas, and may be conducted by individual artisanal loggers or concessionaires.

To log, artisanal loggers must obtain a one year renewable permit (permis artisanal) and their operation areas should not exceed 10 hectares. This permit isawardedmainly to CAR citizens.

Each concessionaire must hold a decree (issued by the Council of Ministers) granting a forest logging and management permit (PEA - permis d'exploitation et d'aménagement). Use of the permit is subject to the signing of a provisional management agreement (CPA - convention provisoire d’aménagement), valid for 3 years and covering 3 provisional cutting areas, allowing the company to launch inventories to carry out its land use plan over the 3 years, including the forest management plan for all annual harvesting blocks.

At the end of the 3 years, the concessionaires must have and hold an approved management plan. Inspections and monitoring of the implementation of the plans are the responsibility of the water and forestry administration. The management plan may be revised every five years. In the event of a revision, the application must mention the constraints or new data that justify it.

Article 32 of the forest code stipulates that the PEA permit is granted for a period equal to the life of the company. However, failure to comply with the provisions of the management plan may result in the company being subject to the penalties provided for in Article 201 (of the forest code). This attribution is renewable as long as the beneficiary company complies with the provisions of the management plan and the currently applicable regulations.

The logging and management permit is strictly tied to the recipient company. It may not give rise to a transfer, asale or subcontracting.

As of 2014 (Order of 21 Jan 2014 issued by the Minister of the Environment), logging companies are required to carry out an environmental impact audit (for companies already established for over 3 years) or an impact study (for those that have just been established). The approval of the audit/assessment reports results in the issuance of a certificate of compliance, which must be renewed every 3 years.

The granting of any logging and management permits is strictly prohibited in ecologically sensitive areas. An implementing decree specifies the boundaries of these zones.

Taxes and fees

All logging companies, regardless of the origin of their capital, are subject to the payment of forest taxes and usage fees.

  • the felling tax, calculated on the basis of the volume of timber species that are exported, is to be paid each month. Companies exporting timber in logs are required to provide the General Directorate in charge of Forests (no later than the 20th of each month for the previous month) with their "timber movements", using the unique form provided by the forest administration.
  • the reforestation tax, calculated on the basis of the volume of timber species that are exported, is to be paid each month on the basis of the summary statement.

Forest taxes are payable before the products are released for export.

Thus, in order to enable the proper calculation of their tax rates, companies must submit a monthly report indicating the volume of timber harvested and processed to the forest administration and the BIVAC (Bureau Inspection Valuation Assessment Control). As the contract with BIVAC is about to expire, another company will carry out pre-export inspections

Timber harvesting activities

After approval of the management plan, the holder of the logging title is to draw up a management plan for the first forest management unit outlined in the management plan. Further management plans shall be submitted for each forest management unit and done in the harvesting order provided for in the management plan.

Each year before starting operations, an annual operating plan (PAO - plan annuel d’opération) is prepared by the company for the annual harvesting block, which is submitted to the department of forest inventory and land use (DIAF - Direction des Inventaires et Aménagement Forestiers, Forest Inventories and Management Department) for verification and approval. After approval, the DIAF issues an annual harvesting authorisation.

Selected trees are felled and the stumps and logs are marked with the unique and registered mark of the company's log stamp hammer. The felling data is recorded in a worksite register and timber movement documents are prepared. These records must be submitted to the forest directorate each month (see tax section) so that it can calculate taxes and forestry statistics.

The absence of any logging activity for a period of one year or more without prior authorisation from the administration may be considered a breach of the management plan and result in the withdrawal of the logging and management permit. Logging activity that would use less than 50% of the volume of the harvesting block base (as provided for in the annual operating plan) may be considered, following expert appraisal by the administration, as a breach of the management plan.

Third parties’ rights

By virtue of customary law, the local populations have usage rights, subject to compliance with currently applicable legislation, in terms of their use of forest products, free of charge and for their subsistence, with the exception of so-called protected species.

Customary use rights include:

  • rights relating to the forest floor;
  • rights relating to natural forest products, known as non-timber forest products (NTFP), some of which may be of commercial interest.

The terms of use relating to non-timber forest products in the context of customary law are determined by regulations. In production forests, customary use rights over the land and the products of the natural forest may be regulated as part of the implementation of forest management plans. Subject to the provisions of the management plans, customary use rights over the products of the natural forest shall be limited:

  • to the gathering of dead wood;
  • to activities linked to the use of forest products other than lumber;
  • to the use of service timber intended for the construction of dwellings or the manufacture of objects and tools;
  • to the use of timber for the construction of canoes, as well as other boats;
  • to the controlled use of wildlife for self-consumption, outside of national parks, wilderness reserves and sanctuaries.

Logging companies are subject to taxation on their production, part of which (30% of felling taxes and 25% of reforestation taxes) is paid to the towns affected by the harvesting of the concession. The amounts, allocated monthly to each town, are intended to contribute to local development by funding infrastructures and collective social facilities for the benefit of the local populations. The PDRSO and the PGRN, through their Local Development component, support the forest towns' efforts to develop and implement their local development plan.

Trade and transport

Log transport documents are to be completed before leaving the harvesting sites and are kept for the duration of the transport.

Any company exporting timber must obtain a valid certificate of origin from the Forestry Directorate before it exports timber products. Currently, only companies that have a PEA permit are allowed to export, which means that all companies work within an almost complete chain of custody, from the tree in the annual harvest block to the port of Douala.

National log production must first and foremost be able to satisfy the demand of local processing units. The local processing rate of the net production of first category species (defined in the PEA development plan) is 70%, with the exception of the secondary species to be promoted. All companies have been given three years to comply with this provision.