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Cameroon’s Informal Wood Production Not Budgeted 

By Leocadia Bongben

Proceeds from the business of informal wood exploitation, estimated at FCFA 6 billion and almost equivalent to the proceeds from the industrial timber exploitation per year, does not go into the national coffers, a study says. The study, realised by the Centre for International Forest Research Centre, CIFOR, indicates that "the trade in illegally harvested timber provides a living for more than 45,000 people and represents a major source of income for corrupt officials and not a cent for the state." 

Justifying the motivation behind the study on May 24 in Yaounde, CIFOR researcher, Paolo Cerutti, said in 2003, the European Union, EU, launched the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Procedure aimed at reducing illegal wood exploitation and trade.
In this vein, the Voluntary Partnership Accord, APV, was put in place to attain the objective with partner countries.

Ghana, Congo and Cameroon, in that order, signed the accord which, to Cerutti, are African countries that included the informal sector in the accord unlike Indonesia which indicated that the informal sector was not part of it.  This means that the Cameroon government, like other African countries, did not understand the terms of the accord. The expert says within the context of the present accord, wood from Cameroon may not be accepted in the European Union in the next two years.

Against this background, the European Union sponsored the study whose end result is to make sure that the informal wood production is formalised. Though the proceeds from timber exploitation do not enter Government coffers, the biggest problem identified in the sector is the harassment by Government officials and their demand for illegal payment or bribes.

With the more than 20 barriers between Bertoua and the border, manned by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife officials, gendarmes and police, the only way to go through is by giving bribes. But researchers say their intention is not to stop this source of revenue to the population but underscored the importance of formalising exploitation. They indicated that the wood production sector suffers neglect in the 1994 Forest Law.

Raphael Tsanga said one of the solutions envisaged would be a special tax to be put in place and making simple the procedure of acquisition of forest titles. He said, at the moment, they are too exorbitant and individuals have to leave forest areas like Bertoua to deposit applications for the forest exploitation titles in Yaounde. He hinted on the need for the decentralisation of the authorisation of titles and for these issues to be included in the Forest Law under review.

Meanwhile, Cerutti maintained that the destruction to biodiversity through saw mill timber exploitation can be equated to that of industrial exploitation on the non-permanent domain of the State. CIFOR experts indicated that some solutions are envisaged in the Forest Law under review with the collaboration of CIFOR and Ministry of Forestry and Wild Life.

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