News  |  01.07.2022

ATIBT Forum: four women gathered around the trade of certified tropical timber

This week we follow up on the article written by Fabienne Tisserand in the magazine Le Bois International published on June 22 and dedicated to the ATIBT Forum. The exchanges and discussions were an opportunity to reaffirm the vital importance of sustainable forest management for the preservation of the natural forests of the Congo Basin and Amazonia, which was supported by the testimonies of four women involved in international associations - including our president Françoise Van de Ven.

ATIBT Forum: four women gathered around the trade of certified tropical timber

Certification, such as FSC or PEFC-PAFC, was in the spotlight during the event, which gave the floor to producers and processors committed to the valorization of a raw material "still too little known by all", according to the organizers. At the initiative of the Forum, there was indeed Fair&Precious, a collective brand to promote tropical woods from a sustainable, ethical and legal management, respecting the strictest environmental standards, developing a more humane economy, protective of man and nature ... In concrete terms, the brand, which recommends the FSC and PEFC-PAFC forest certification labels, acts to promote the forest resources of the Congo Basin and to promote good practices within the tropical wood industry and especially the purchase of certified tropical timber to target audiences. It relies on international forest management certifications and regulations to guide buyers towards companies in the tropical wood sector that are committed to sustainable development and the preservation of forest resources. It was developed a few years ago by ATIBT.

ATIBT, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, was founded in 1951 at the request of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Serving the "tropical wood" sector, from the forest to the final consumer, the association plays a leading role in the implementation of international projects dedicated to the sustainable and responsible management of tropical forests. It also positions itself as a technical and scientific reference for tropical wood resources. Between 2016 and 2019, ATIBT has seen an increase of nearly 50% in the number of its members, bringing its membership to over 130. Alongside players in the "African tropical wood" sector, ATIBT brings together states (Republic of Congo, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, Central African Republic), other African (Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, DRC) and European professional associations, research centers, consultancies, NGOs (such as WWF and the Prince Albert II Foundation) and major companies.

With a full cycle of conferences on market and technical issues, with speakers from different backgrounds, the forum has therefore recalled, in addition to the importance of tropical wood as an exceptional wood, the importance of sustainable forest management. "Certified tropical wood is much more than just wood," said Benoît Jobbé-Duval, ATIBT Director General.  "Bringing visibility around this wood and its assets is our daily mission and it is our responsibility to continue to remind all actors in the timber industry and the general public that this wood continues to be in great danger. The destruction of tropical forests threatens all of us, because they are essential to the stability of the global climate. Our role is to continue to promote FSC or PEFC-PAFC certifications, the only way to help protect this precious wood."

Women's voice

For the first time at the International Timber Forum, says ATIBT, four women representing international organizations specializing in tropical timber issues have come together to form a single voice to encourage sustainable management of tropical forests.

Rosalie Matondo, Minister of Forest Economy of Congo, Sheam Satkuru, Executive Director of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), Thaïs Linhares-Juvenal, Team Leader of Forest Governance and Economics for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Françoise Van de Ven, President of ATIBT spoke about the close cooperation between their organizations. The new "sustainable wood" campaign led by the FAO, the adaptation to the decision of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (Cemac), the local market of sustainable wood, as well as the issue of wood residues were, among others, issues discussed. As well as the importance of women in the timber sector, a field that has been rather masculine until now.

"Despite these positive aspects, the production and consumption of tropical wood still represent a low priority for international development action, particularly due to the persistence of unsustainable practices. In promoting sustainable forest management, the four of us have a similar goal of coming together as women to change mindsets, encourage a more positive and responsible attitude, and develop and strengthen certified tropical timber value chains," said Françoise Van de Ven, president of ATIBT.

Françoise Van de Ven, as a reminder, was elected on January 28, 2022 as president of ATIBT for two years. At the age of 64, she knows the association and the issues of the sector well since she has devoted most of her professional life to the tropical wood sector, in Belgium, in the private sector, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, still in the private sector as Secretary General of the Federation of Industrial Wood (FIB), and in Gabon, where she assumed the role of General Delegate of the Union of Foresters and Industrial Wood (UFIGA) of Gabon.

"Today certification is known but we do not pay the right price for this wood because there is real unfair competition from illegal operations that do not respect the rules and harm the environment and society," said the new president at the press conference organized on March 15, 2022 by ATIBT, entitled "Sustainable forest management, a solution against deforestation?", based on the example of the Congo Basin*.

"300 million hectares of forest cannot be monitored on a daily basis! And out of 51 million hectares of production forest, only 10% are certified today. This is progress but a lot of work remains to be done. With our partners such as KfW, PPECF, and others who support actors towards certification, we hope to double the certified areas in the Congo Basin, but also more widely, because the issue of certification of tropical wood also arises in Liberia, Sierra Leone ... ", she said.

"Thanks to sustainable forest management, we can see real progress. We can now count 95,000 elephants, compared to 60,000 a few years ago, and the majority of these mammals are found in forest concessions! Economically, our ambition is to continue to enhance the Fair&Precious initiative because through this we continue to preserve the rainforests for future generations, while creating local employment and boosting the fauna and flora and storing carbon," she concluded.

* The Congo Basin rainforest represents 300 million hectares of dense forest (about 3/4 the size of the European Union), 25% of tropical terrestrial CO2 storage, 10 million hectares of certified areas (guaranteed zero deforestation), more than 10,000 species of plants, 400 species of wood and more than 1,400 species of animals including iconic mammals (great apes, elephants, buffaloes).