• Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

Forest governance

The governance of forests in Côte d'Ivoire is handled differently depending on whether they belong to the State's public forest estate, the State's private forest estate, the forest estate of local authorities, or the forest estate of natural and legal persons under private law.

In the rural area, where priority is given in principle to agriculture, the forest area is managed by the Ministry of Water and Forests. The 234 classified forests belonging to the State's permanent private forest estate have been managed since 1992 by SODEFOR (Société de Développement des Forêts - Forest Development Company) on behalf of the State. As for the forests of the State's public forest estate (national parks and nature reserves), they are managed by the OIPR (Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves - Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves).

A new Forestry Code was adopted and promulgated on 23 July 2019. This code introduces profound changes in Ivorian forestry legislation, including the creation of new forest categories (agro-forests, community forests, sacred forests, etc.) and omitted older categories, in particular forest logging perimeters (PEF) with the registration of lands belonging to the forest domains of private legal entities and individuals. Several regulatory texts (decrees and orders) have been issued to specify the provisions of the new Forestry Code. To date, approximately 17 decrees and 5 orders have been issued in this regard.

Legal rights to harvest

Logging in the national forest estate is now defined (in addition to the forestry code), by decree no. 2019-980 of 27 November 2019 on logging in the rural area. Any natural or legal person that is legally constituted has the right to perform forestry activities under the condition of being authorised by the competent Administration and only in the areas authorised for forestry exploitation in accordance with the provisions set by the forestry code and subsequent texts without distinction of nationality or capital that is entirely Ivorian (for companies).

The 2019 forestry code identifies several different categories of forest, including a new category: the agro-forest, where agricultural activities and forestry activities will coexist. Prior to the 2019 Forestry Code, logging was carried out in the forest estates of private law entities and individuals, through the perimeters of forest exploitation (PEF - périmètres d’exploitation forestière), in the rural area, which always represent the production area of the vast majority of the country's timber. These PEFs –granted by the Ministry of Water and Forests - are managed by private concessionaires (and include a transitional period following the new provisions of the Forestry Code of 2019).

The terms under which logging is to be carried out in the national forest estate have been set (as indicated above) by decree no. 2019-980 of 27 November 2019.  A draft decree specifying how logging is to be carried out in the forests of legal persons of private law, individuals and trees outside the forest is being prepared. This draft proposes a transitional period for the granting of PEFs. This draft will allow for a transitional period for the allocation of PEFs, the duration of which is under discussion among the stakeholders. The private sector is proposing ten (10) years, while the other stakeholders, mainly civil society, are proposing a period not exceeding five (5) years. This decree, once issued, will fill a legal vacuum with regard to the modalities of timber harvesting in the rural domain. It will then reinforce the existing legislation.

At the end of the proposed transitional period, the Ministry of Water and Forests will no longer be able to grant PEFs. Thus, logging in the forests of private individuals will be done on the basis of an agreement between them and the logger. However, the MINEF remains the guarantor of the management of the national forest estate, notwithstanding the registration of the land on which the forests are located by the owners. 

The National Forest Domain is defined in article 18 of the Forest Code as follows:

  • Forest estates belonging to legal entities governed by public law;
  • Forest estates belonging to legal entities governed by private law;
  • Forest estates belonging to natural persons

The conditions for logging within Agro-Forests and Classified Forests in the State's private domain and in territorial Communitie
The Agro-forests and classified forests of the State and local communities' private domain are logged as part of managed concessions. In Agro-forests and classified forests of the State and local communities' private domain, logging is carried out in accordance with the management plan, the specifications and the technical standards defined by the forest administration.

Logging quotas are established by the forest administration on the basis of, among other things:

  • A forest inventory that is less than two years old;
  • The minimum density threshold to be reached to ensure the regeneration of the ligneous resource, calculated on the basis of the results of the forest inventory;
  • The minimum harvestable diameter.  

The conditions for logging in forests belonging to private legal entities and natural persons
Logging in forests belonging to legal entities governed by private law and natural persons shall be carried out in accordance with the simplified management plan or the management plan and the technical standards established by the forest administration. The harvesting of timber for domestic use in forests belonging to legal entities governed by private law and natural persons or in community forests shall be carried out freely by the owner, in keeping with sustainable forest management and any provisions pertaining to protected species.

The 2019 Forestry Code requires that forests be registered in the name of their owners (legal entities under public law, private law and natural persons). The registration of forests will make it possible to identify the owners of forests and thus avoid possible conflicts related to the ownership of the tree and the forest, and also to settle problems pertaining to responsibility. In the long term, and in the rural domain, PEFs (in their current format) will disappear, to be replaced by individual or collective forest properties, which will be subject to negotiations between loggers and the forest owners.

Logging is subject to the obtaining of a logging permit, depending on the forest area. Since management concessions are specific, several types of logging permits will be generated. Every logging company is required to obtain an approval issued by the Ministry in charge of forests, and this approval is granted for a fee. The conditions and cost of this approval are determined by regulation.

Taxes and fees

As the 2019 Forest Code has brought changes in terms of the classification of forests. This will probably generate new taxes while likely also modifying existing ones. For the time being, and prior to the publication of new decrees, orders and other subsequent texts, the legislative continuation maintains the existing Taxes and Usage Fees.

In the rural sector, the Ministry in charge of Water and Forests continues to grant the management of forest logging areas (PEFs) to logging companies that have met the demands outlined in regulations. The payment of various specific taxes is a precondition in order to obtain a provisional authorisation to harvest within the area, namely:

  1. Usage Fees for General Interest Works – (TIG - Travaux d’Intérêts Général);
  2. Attribution and Area Taxes – (TAS - Taxe d'Attribution et Superficie), and;
  3. Taxes on the sale of logs.

It should be noted that other conditions are mandatory, such as, for example, having met one's obligations in terms of compensatory reforestation, not being subject to litigation related to logging misconduct, and producing a debt clearance certificate in relation to the forest administration.

Within the framework of partnership agreements related to classified forest area, a distinction is made between:

  • Payment of an annual land usage fee based on the forest area under agreement
  • Payment for stalks that will be harvested in accordance with the management plan

Timber harvesting activities

The 2019 forest code identifies several categories of forests. The conditions under which logging can occur in the national forest domain have been established by decree no. 2019-980 of 27 November 2019.

Classified forests: 

  • Management plan (currently, the Forest Code authorises logging under the condition that there is a management plan validated by the MINEF and submitted to it by the Sodefor), Article 4 of Order no. 861/MINEF/CAB of 13 December 2019 on the terms of establishment and implementation of forest and agro-forest management plans.
  • Specific agreement relating to logging and the list of trees authorised for harvest (document issued by the SODEFOR's general management and which must be annexed to the agreement and physically present at the harvesting site);
  • Logging authorisations, along with their specifications (documents issued by the SODEFOR's regional management centre - several authorisations must be obtained for a single agreement).
  • In accordance with chapter 3, article 56 of the 2019 Forest Code, concessions for the management of classified forests are granted by decree and issued by the Council of Ministers.

In the rural domain:

Forest logging areas (PEFs) are initially issued by means of a Provisional Authorisation to harvest the area. For those taxable years prior to the restitution of annual activity, the payment of various taxes is a prerequisite in order to obtain this authorisation as mentioned under Taxes and Fees. Authorisation is granted on the basis of the approval of a specifications document, which is submitted to the Ministry of Water and Forests and which contains, among other things:

  1. A report on the restoration of the forest area's boundaries, issued by the Ministry of Water and Forests. This confirms that the boundaries of the concession are visible and well maintained.
  2. A reforestation certificate, issued by the Reforestation and Forest Land Registry Directorate, confirming that the company has carried out the required compensatory reforestation.
  3. A forest survey (Prospecting Report with GPS coordinates)
  4. A debt clearance Certificate issued by the MINEF
  5. A debt clearance Certificate issued by the SODEFOR
  6. A Certificate that attests to proper facility operations, issued by the MINEF's Competent Regional Directorate; etc.  

The annual authorisation specifies the annual allowable cut (AAC) that applies to the concession. The concession holder obtains a forest area logbook from the DPIF (Direction de la Production des Industries Forestières - Forest Industry Production Board) in Abidjan, in which the harvested logs are recorded with their unique numbers and other details. The DPIF has published the minimum tolerated harvest diameter for each species conform article 2 of the Annex to Decree 66-421 of 15 September 1966 regulating the harvesting of lumber and cabinet-making timber, service timber, firewood and charcoal.

Each felled tree is given a unique number, which it will retain until its final destination. The log and stump each bear the mark of the recorder's hammer (Area-specific Hammer), the forest logging area (PEF) number and a unique log number and, where applicable, a log section identifier. In addition to the Forest Area Logbook, the company also completes a B Statement, which consists of a report on the monthly extraction per forest area. 

Third parties’ rights

The 2019 Forest Code provides for forest use rights and specifies the conditions of access to be observed by the communities. Forest use rights are exercised in State and local community forests, with the exception of forests belonging to natural persons and legal entities subject to private law. Harvesting conducted as part of forest use rights must be done in accordance with the principles of sustainable forest management. Forest use rights do not extend to the subsoil.

Forest use rights may be exercised in State and local community forests and agro-forests that are the subject of management concessions without the concessionaire being able to claim any compensation from the communities. Forest products harvested by virtue of forest use rights do not give rise to the payment of any tax or usage fee to the forest administration.

In classified forests and agro-forests, forest use rights are exercised according to the conditions provided for in the management plan, in compliance with the principles of sustainable forest management. These rights are limited to:

  • the gathering of dead wood and straw;
  • the gathering of fruits, edible or medicinal plants, roots, bark and leaves;
  • the collecting of drinking water;
  • the capturing of non-endangered animals and insects for consumption and non-commercial purposes;

In terms of the sharing of profits resulting from logging or any other activity related to the forest, a distribution formula will be determined by decree; the local communities are direct beneficiaries.

Trade and transport

For the transportation of logs from the forest to the sawmill, an Approved Waybill - (BRH - Bordereau de Route Homologué) is filled out, which must match the details in the Forest Area Logbook. This transportation document must be in the specified format, and obtained from the Timber Board, and will be produced in six copies for the relevant parties indicated on the document: (1) buyer; (2) forest owner; (3) transporter; (4) forest office; (5) DPIF Abidjan; and (6) remains in the Logbook. For classified forests, the document used is the BCBG, which has the same function as the AWB does for forest logging areas (PEFs).

Each day, logs that enter the sawmill are recorded in an Entry Log Book (LJE - Livre journal des entrées), and the details must match those in the BRH. In addition to the LJE, the company also fills out an E Statement, which is a report on the logs received monthly per harvested forest area in order to determine the amount of taxes payable for the harvested volume.

The sawmill's monthly production is recorded on a production sheet (in a specific format) that is obtained from the DPIF. In addition to the production sheet, the G1 statement is also completed and submitted to the authorities; it contains the sawmill's monthly production. For exports, a full statement of monthly exports is completed, while an H Statement will be used for monthly local sales. Further processing does not involve sawing / peeling / slicing is indicated in the Monthly Production Declaration (DMP - Déclaration Mensuelle de Production).