• Gabon

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Gabon

Forest governance

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.

Legal rights to harvest

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 50,000hectares 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 amanagement plan, which must be approved by theforest 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.

Taxes and fees

The General Tax Code (CGI - Code Général des Impôts), which brings together all of the texts relating to taxation, consists of five books:

  1. Taxes on profits and income;
  2. Taxes on turnover;
  3. Miscellaneous taxes and duties;
  4. Registration and stamp duties;
  5. 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).

Timber harvesting activities

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 NaturalPark, 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.

Third parties’ rights

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.

Trade and transport

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.