By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

The German Federal Minister of Cooperation and Economic Development, abbreviated in the German language as BMZ, Dr. Gerd Müller, has stated that; without the presence of the forest, there will be no life on earth.

Dr. Gerd, who was on an official visit to Cameroon, made the statement on March 14, during a conference on: “Conservation and Management of Forest Ecosystems and Biodiversity.” The event, which took place in the conference hall of the German Technical Cooperation, GIZ, was attended by Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, Philip Ngole Ngwese.

According to the German Cooperation Minister, the central message he brought to the authorities of Cameroon and other stakeholders is that the tropical forest, which constitutes the world’s lungs, must be preserved and protected. He said, because of the important role the forest plays in sequestrating carbondioxide and releasing oxygen, which is used in breathing, deforestation must stop while re-afforestation is encouraged.

“In the absence of the forest, there will be no human life on earth,” he told conference participants. He remarked that the benefit of the forest is its global potential for the fight against climate change. On compensating local communities and indigenes for the protection of the forest through the REDD+ process, Dr. Gerd talked of the increased engagement of the German Government through its additional country programmes for Cameroon.

Going by the number of German-sponsored projects in the country, Gerd said Cameroon is a friend and a privileged partner of Germany in Africa, adding that the GIZ has experts that would continue to collaborate with Government and other stakeholders for a sustainable management of the forest. He expressed hopes the cooperation between the GIZ and MINFOF would be more efficacious.

He described some images, of the wildlife slaughtered by poachers that were projected during the conference, as horrible, stating that the illegal forest exploitation and killing of wildlife in the country is still a very big concern.

“We are going to support you in a more intensive manner in the fight against illegal forest exploitation and poaching; encourage forest certification; explore new markets for Cameroon forest products,” he promised.

Ngole Ngwese, talked about the efforts Cameroon is making to stem illegal forest exploitation as well as the emergency plan on protected areas. He highlighted the strides made by the country since the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

“Cameroon was and remains very conscious of the resolutions of the summit and that is why it harmonised its forestry policy which culminated into the 1994 Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Law which are being implemented in the country today. We are conscious of what the forest ecosystem represents in human life as well as in economic development,” he told the visiting German Minister.

Ngole Ngwese stated that the harmonised policy is based on sustainable management of the forest and wildlife, maintaining that such a policy has witnessed positive evolution since 1992, especially the millions of hectares of the forest now placed under complete protection.

On governance, he mentioned the Voluntary Partnership Agreement of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, VPA/FLEGT, signed with the European Union; stringent attribution by a commission of forest volumes to be exploited being monitored by an independent observer; a permanent clean up of the ills besetting the forestry sector; regular publication of information on forestry and wildlife activities and so on.

He informed participants that the 1994 Law gives room for Government to cut down and remove trees from portions of the forests that have been demarcated for the implementation of development projects. He said wood from such areas is not illegal as claimed by some NGOs for such an operation is within the ambit of the Law.

In a presentation, Jean Claude Soh highlighted the Germano-Cameroon cooperation in the forestry sector, noting that the country’s biodiversity concentration is the second in Africa. According to Soh, German financial cooperation to Cameroon is 130 million Euros, while technical cooperation is 45 million Euros with the same additional amount in the pipeline.

For a better impact of the cooperation to be felt, he said, administrative and contract award procedures must be accelerated, while there should be flexibility in the use of technical operators. Partner administrations such as Defence, Economy, Environment, Mining, Tourism, Agriculture, Livestock, as well as other donors and allies, need to be mobilised.