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Legal Wood Accord To Boost Cameroon 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai — “The effective implementation of the October 6, 2010 Voluntary Partnership Agreement, abbreviated in French as APV, signed between Cameroon and the European Union, EU, within the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, FLEGT, stipulating that only wood from legal origins would be allowed into EU markets is likely to globally foster forest governance in Cameroon.”

This is the view expressed by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, Philip Ngole Ngwese, while responding to questions at a joint press briefing with the EU Head of Delegation to Cameroon, Raul Mateus Paula. The Minister was speaking at the end of the second joint meeting of the APV that held at the Yaounde Mont Febé Hotel on July 17 and 18.

The first meeting took place on March 6 and 7, 2012 after both parties ratified the FLEGT on August 9, 2011. Meanwhile, the deadline for exportation of legal wood into EU markets is March 2013. On what Cameroon stands to gain from such an initiative, Ngole Ngwese said the APV would globally handle and enhance forest governance in the country.

“The implementation of the accord would check the rampant illegal forest exploitation and give Cameroon the opportunity to trace and ensure that wood being exported to the EU is only from legal origins. Its effectiveness would give a good image of the country to the world,” the Minister told the press.

“Since the ratification of the FLEGT, additional efforts have been made by government to get people respect the [forestry] law. From March 2013, wood from illegal origins found in EU markets would be repatriated,” he stated in reaction to a question on what has changed since the signing of the APV.

The Minister said mechanisms enshrined in conventions between Cameroon and neighbouring countries using the territory to transit wood to the Douala Port for exportation, checks against the mingling of Cameroonian wood with those from other countries.

“At the seaport in principle, timber and wood from other countries don’t mix with that of Cameroon,” he noted, adding that special trademarks are used to identify the origin of timber and wood crossing the country thus tracking of the products from Cameroonian forests to ensure its legal origin would not be a problem.

He revealed that, in 2011, some 17 projects of the FLEGT process in Cameroon benefitted a global sum of 9 711 667 Euros. He said the wood tracking project in Cameroon coupled with the legality verification system and the second generation computer system of the forest information management are some of the major tools of APV.

He outlined a plethora of major advances made since the recommendations of the joint council meeting of March 6, 2012 noting that such achievements need to be consolidated as Government is determined to improve on governance and the confidence it is building between the forestry sector and foreign partners that have been providing support for years.

Amongst the partners, EU has a privileged position thanks to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement. Ngole Ngwese held that despite recent financial crisis that hit the forest sector, there are still some 150.000 direct and indirect jobs being provided by the sector.

Meanwhile, Mateus Paula said article 19 of APV gave room for the creation of the joint council – a supervisory and consensual decision making body with the MINFOF boss and himself as members, and the joint follow-up committee which is a consultative body.

The council, he noted, also make public the annual report, ensure that the work of the committee is done in all transparency, defines modalities and seeking solutions to differences in order to maintain the proper functioning of the APV as well as examine and modify articles of the accord.

He hailed Cameroon for advances made in the FLEGT process which implies the development of measures to ensure transparency, governance and reform of the forestry sector at the national level. Mateus also expressed satisfaction with proposed texts on modalities for the issue of certificates of legality and FLEGT authorisations which will eventually render operational the legality verification system.

The wood tracking system of Cameroon is on a good footing following conclusions of a joint evaluation by officials of MINFOF and the European Forest Institute, Paula disclosed. The joint meeting was also marked by the award of medals to committee members who worked day and night to bring APV-FLEGT to fruition.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01361


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