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Logging Companies, NGOs Told To Be Socially Responsible 

By Joe Dinga Pefok — Eight logging companies and ten local NGOs engaged in the forest sector recently received training on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and conflict management.

This was during a three-day workshop in Douala, Littoral Region organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, through its Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN). Supported by NORAD and WWF Netherlands, participants were drilled on fundamentals of CSR, imparted knowledge on theory and concept of conflicts, and provided skills on conflicts management.

In Cameroon like in many other countries in the region, there exist numerous conflicts pitting logging companies against local population, villagers against administrative authorities and inter-village disputes. These conflicts hamper efforts to attain sustainable development crucial in the fight against poverty and promotion of best practices.

Corporate social responsibility is an effective approach for responsible forest management. “Though CSR is a concept that dates back a few decades, it is relatively new within the Cameroonian context,” says Norbert Sonné, WWF Cameroon Forest Program Coordinator.  “For this reason, WWF decided to train logging companies and NGOs on basic concepts on CSR and tools to better internalise these concepts in their daily operations.”

In order to achieve responsible management of forest resources, we have to look at critical ways to address conflicts that arise from exploitation of natural resources. “Unfortunately, we have noticed that despite numerous efforts made by the private sector in the Congo Basin to address conflicts with communities and other stakeholders, there is still much to be done to mitigate these,” said Sonné, “that is why WWF/GFTN have been supporting capacity building on conflict prevention since 2009.”

The workshop also served as a platform for logging companies to share experiences on the subject. “We have acquired sorely needed knowledge that will help improve the way we manage conflicts in our company,” stated Bounoungou Zibi of Group Decolvenaere, an FSC certified Belgian logging company operating in the East Region.

As for Victor Amougou, who heads CEFAID, a local NGO that advocates for the rights of indigenous Baka, “the workshop provided a welcome first step in addressing conflict pitting logging companies and marginalised indigenous people.” For more than a decade, WWF has supported sustainable forest management and FSC certification in the Congo Basin through its Global Forest and Trade Network, which promotes trade amongst logging companies committed to exemplary forest exploitation practices.

First published in The Post print edition no 01454

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