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How Forestry & Environment Sectors Fared In 2013 

Nformi Sonde Kinsai — Apart from withdrawal and suspension of licences of some defaulting forest exploitation companies, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, also highlighted the list of some 50 companies whose tenders were declared successful by an Interministerial Commission to exploit standing volumes of the forest in the country.

Meanwhile, going by facts and figures on MINFOF in 2013, headed by Philip Ngole Ngwese, it stands out that forest covers a surface area of 22.5 million hectares representing 46 percent of surface area of the national territory. Of this figure, some 17.5 million hectares of the forest are exploitable

In 2013, some 530 applications for the attribution of community forests were cumulatively registered by MINFOF and out of that figure, 306 cumulated simple management plans were approved. It is worth noting that more than 1.2 million hectares of forest are reserved as community forests with 75 percent of it already provided with simple management plans.

While some 262 and 72 long lasting and provisionary management conventions were signed, respectively as of 2013, 86 annual exploitation certificates were given out for the exploitation of timber and non-timber forest products. Another activity in MINFOF that drew public attention was the attribution of FCFA 87 million to 40 Lamidats and traditional chiefdoms for re-afforestation. Each of them went home with FCFA 2 million, while FCFA 7 million was given out to eight Common Initiative Groups and associations for the same purpose.

Selection criteria bordered on council areas with provisionary forest reserve management conventions; structures that have never benefited from MINFOF support to undertake re-afforestation; councils, NGOs, associations and chiefdoms that effectively realised and need to cater for the forest plantations. In a quest to ensure sustainable forest management, some six forest management units on a surface area of about 4.044.417 hectares were classified and incorporated in the private forest domain of the State. The procedure to get more of the forest incorporated in this category is ongoing.

To foster good governance in the forestry and wildlife sectors, the Ministry worked with several other stakeholders and conservation organisations with national as well as international status. Amongst them could be cited WWF, World Conservation Union, the Last Great Ape Organisation, the World Conservation Society, TRAFFIC, among others. Harping on the 1994 forestry and wildlife law, a number of national control strategies were put in place to track down forestry and wildlife criminals.

Many poachers and illegal forest exploiters were arrested in the course of such controls, brought to book and sentenced, coupled with the payment of fines. Many of the cases are still pending in courts across the country. The work of the independent observer who keenly followed and evaluated activities in the forestry sector also constituted initiatives that marked the activities of MINFOF. Even though the report of the observer talked of pockets of illegal forest exploitation still going on, it, however, concluded that the trend is on the decline.

One of the highlights of the business that characterised activities in the forestry sector in 2013 was the intense collaboration of the Government of Cameroon through MINFOF and the European Union. Such collaboration, which falls within the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade, FLEGT initiative, yielded fruits in 2013 as the importation of timber into Europe from illegal forest exploitation was banned.

A number of timber transformation units also saw the light of day in 2013, bringing the cumulative total of the three categories to some 200. Category One, which are units with fixed industrial plants transforming more than 5,000 logs per year are 72, Category Two with fixed and mobile industrial plants handling between 1,000 and 5000 logs annually are 77, while those in Category Three with fixed and mobile tools transforming less 1,000 logs per year are 51 in number.

The activities of the Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, MINEPDED in 2013 under the auspices Pierre Hele, bordered on a massive conduction of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, ESIA, of some major projects being carried out by Government as well as by individually owned companies.

While it is now a tradition that public hearings are organised, thanks to World Bank recommendations, to present results of expected environmental problems likely to be triggered by the implementation of such major projects, proposed solutions are also presented by the project holders. Meanwhile, the presentation of audit reports on projects that were undertaken long before environmental and social impact assessment exigencies became the order of the day, was also on the menu of MINEPDED in 2013.

ESIA Studies on the Memve’ele, Lom Pangar, Mekin hydro-electric dam projects as well as that on the Menchum and Katsina water falls were also conducted. The most recent of such field studies was undertaken by MINFOF officials in late December to the floods-wrecked localities especially in Maga, Far North Region, where a new dyke is expected to be constructed to hold back water on that river. Other ESIA studies included those on agro-industrial set-ups, oil exploration, drilling and exploitation, road construction projects and so on.

A series of validation seminars in collaboration with development partners on issues such as adapting to the adverse effects of climate change with inspiration drawn from international instruments also marked the activities of MINEPDED. Commemoration of events of global magnitude such as the World Wetlands Day; the World Water Day; the World Environment Day; the World Day Against Desertification and so on, were outstanding on the Minister’s agenda in 2013.

One key activity undertaken by MINEPDED was the putting in place, in collaboration with CONAC, of the Rapid Results Initiative whose goal was to significantly reduce corruption in 100 days within the ranks of MINEPDED officials in the Centre and Littoral Regions. Critics hold that the outcome of such an initiative is yet to be visible in the eyes of the man on the street.

First published in The Post print edition no 01493


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