News  |  15.01.2021

Public markets in Cameroon: obligation to use legal timber

A new decree, signed on December 15 by three ministers, places Cameroon as the first country in Africa to impose an obligation in its public contracts to use wood from legal origin.

Public markets in Cameroon: obligation to use legal timber

The ministers in charge of Forests, Public Works and Public Procurement signed a joint decree on December 15 setting out the modalities for the use of timber from legal origin in public procurement in Cameroon.

According to officials at MINFOF, this text was expected since 2016. It is the result of long-term work between MINFOF and CIFOR, with the support of several international donors through several projects funded by the European Union (Proformal) in collaboration with the FAO (Essor) or by the French Facility for Global Environment FFEM (Profeaac) which notably showed that the State remained the main buyer of sawnwood on the domestic market. In collaboration with MINFOF, CERAD (Center for Research and Action for Sustainable Development), for its part, carried out advocacy with public administrations and construction companies.

This text implies a "legal timber" clause in all public contracts, which imposes a supply of timber of legal origin for sites awarded on public contracts. From now on, economic operators engaged in the construction of buildings and / or public procurement related with wood products will have to prove the legal origin of the wood used.

This text with economic significance is a major step forward in the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement for the Legal Timber Trade (FLEGT VPA) at the national level. The aim is to limit the impact of illegal activities on the economic performance of the forestry sector. Moreover, the objective of the state is also to limit the import of products derived from wood. This is a boost to a thorough transformation which for more than a decade has been the soft underbelly of public policies", comments the communication unit of the ministry in charge of forests.

The Ministry of Forests (MINFOF) will have to ensure the availability of timber of legal origin and respect for this provision upon receipt. Legality will be verified as it is currently set and included in the VPA legality grids. To implement this decree, MINFOF is relaunching its MIB platform (virtual platform for legal timber transactions in the domestic market, with the support of the Essor 2 project) which will offer wood of legal origin from several concessions, communal forests, and community forests. A test will be carried out on a few operators in 2021, which will be generalized once the platform has shown its effectiveness. Guillaume Lescuyer of CIFOR-CIRAD notes that “several challenges still have to be overcome (reduction of documentary fraud, simplification of Timber Exploitation Permits for the benefit of small individual producers - PEBO) to ensure the legality of these supplies, but the idea of ​​this joint decree is to increase the markets for these legal producers and to encourage them to become legal ”.

The decree thus signed is binding and applicable. In this sense, MINFOF is currently launching an awareness and outreach campaign. Guillaume Lescuyer adds: "We will probably have to have a few outstanding and symbolic cases to demonstrate the possibility of applying this joint decree (and without too much additional cost) in order to convince more widely. A job that will therefore take a little longer ”.

For now, says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through its FAO-EU FLEGT program, access to wood of legal origin remains a major constraint for the development of SMEs in the wood processing sub-sector in Cameroon.

The proportion of sawnwood from legal sources supplying the domestic market is estimated at only 27% of the total volume of timber circulating in the markets of the main cities of the country. The remaining 73% therefore represent the share of illegal timber supplied to the domestic market and its operators” reveals FAO in a note published in September 2020.

Illustration photo credit : G.LESCUYER / CIFOR