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Cameroon achieves a new milestone in promoting legal wood

Cameroon achieves a new milestone in promoting legal wood

Cameroon has become one of the first African countries to require the use of legal wood and timber in all its public procurement procedures. From now on, operators engaged in construction or public purchases in connection with wood by-products will have to prove the legal origin of the wood used. The new joint decree was signed on December 15, 2020 by Cameroonian ministers in charge of Forestry, Public Works, and Public Contracts. 

Sawn wood transport
Sawn wood transport by Indra van Gisbergen, Fern

The public sector is Cameroon’s main wood and furniture buyer, using at least 13 000 cubic metres per year for infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and other public facilities. However, sawn timber from legal sources and supplying the domestic market is estimated at only 27% of the total volume of timber in circulation in the country's main markets, according to a study by the Center for International Forestry Research. The remaining 73% of wood supplied to the domestic market and its operators is illegal.

This situation is expected to soon change following the publication on December 15, 2020 of a new interministerial decree. The text, jointly signed by the ministries of Forests and Fauna, Public Works and Public Markets, introduces a legality clause to all public procurement procedures requiring the use of sawn wood and wood products.

Operators engaged in construction or public procurement in connection with wood by-products will from now on have to prove the legal origin of wood used. The Ministry of Forests will be responsible for ensuring availability of legal wood and compliance with this provision when acquiring equipment and developing infrastructure. The Ministry of Public Procurement must include this provision in tender documents, and the Ministry of Public Works will oversee the implementation of the decree overall.

Through a public communication, the Ministry of Forests stated that “this economic text is a major step in the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement for the Legal Timber Trade (VPA-FLEGT) in the country. The objective is to limit the impact of informal activities on the economic performance of the forestry sector. The State's objective is also to limit the import of timber products. This will boost the further processing industry that has, for over a decade now, been the weaker point of public policy”.

As a result of this initiative, “the State shall no longer contribute to illegal logging through its public procurement practices”, stated a representative of the Ministry of Forests.