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Gov’t Suspends 72 Logging Companies 

By Ntaryike Divine Jr.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has frozen the activities of 72 logging companies scattered across the country’s timber-rich southern regions. The sanctioned companies include those in possession of the Wood Removal Permit [abridged AEB in French] and the Authorisation for Timber Removal [or ARB].

Some loggers have been illegally cutting down Cameroon’s forests

The decision suspending the activities of the logging companies was reached on March 1 and rendered public via a communiqué served newsrooms in the country on Thursday, March 3.  The companies affected by the ban fall within the non-permanent forestry sector category and observers argue that the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, usually considered a toothless bulldog in the face of the powerful logging companies, appears to have sufficiently sharpened its teeth in readiness to sincerely clean up the sector.

According to Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Prof Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, the move aims at eliminating illegal practices in the country’s forestry sector. The companies concerned are found in the Centre, East, Littoral, South and Southwest Regions.

Regional officials of the Ministry charged with enforcing respect of the decision say henceforth, permits and authorisations will be granted only after wood sector dealers obtain clearance from the Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment. Joseph Issola Dipanda, Forestry and Wildlife Delegate for the Littoral Region, says only then would the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife issue permits and authorisations.

Cameroon is the second wood producer in Central Africa after Gabon. Approximately 75 percent of the country is covered with forest or woodland constituting a significant portion of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest ecosystem after the Amazon Basin. The first destination for exported timber from Cameroon remains the European Union even if the importance of Asia is rapidly increasing.

The March 1 release states that the suspension decision follows reforms undertaken by the government to halt anarchy in the sector. The measure is also in line with the announced implementation of the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade, or FLEGT process. It consists in combating illegal exploitation of forest resources and trade associated to the activity.

The FLEGT plan of action provides for the signing of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with producer countries that are willing to take measures aimed at enhancing governance, control of trade in timber products, checking the legality of the products as well as meeting demand for legal timber products.

The various exploitation licenses accorded companies include forest concessions which consist of very large forests surface areas of the permanent estate, council forests, allocated to councils on more or less large surface area and Sales of Standing Volumes with a maximum duration of three years.

There are also wood harvest authorisation granted companies within the context of logs that have been seized and sold in auction; individual felling authorisation on community forests, among others. Analysts say the decision to put an end to the activities of these companies may save Government persistent losses incurred in the illegal exploitation of the country’s forest resources.

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