Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

According to this paper, corruption continues to be a dominant feature of Cameroon’s forest sector, and there is an apparent lack of political will to institute change.

Pallisco logging company's FSC timber operations in Mindourou, Cameroon. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.Pallisco logging company's FSC timber operations in Mindourou, Cameroon. Photo by Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses the global response to illegal logging and the related trade. 

This assessment of the extent of illegal logging in Cameroon and the response to this issue suggests that progress has stalled since 2010. The reform of the legislative framework for the forest sector has yet to be completed; and while there have been improvements in the availability of forestry information, there remain many gaps. Furthermore, the principle of transparency has yet to be broadly accepted within the government. Enforcement is weak and information management systems are deemed inadequate. Most important, corruption remains widespread and the political will needed to drive change is felt to be lacking.

While there is evidence of progress in the private sector – the area of forests with legality verification and certification has increased – illegal activities are rife throughout the forest sector. Half of all timber production is estimated to come from the informal artisanal sector – mainly supplying the domestic market. However, illegal activities are also common in supply chains for export: timber originating from ‘small permits’ and sales of standing volume permits is thought to be particularly problematic. This is of particular concern, as the supply of timber from such permits is expected to increase owing to the growing pressure on forests from other sectors.

Since 2000 trade has shifted away from sensitive markets: the EU market’s significance as a destination for Cameroon’s exports of timber-sector products has decreased, while China’s significance has increased enormously. This has important implications for strategies on how best to tackle illegal logging in Cameroon.

In order to make further progress, markets for legal timber need to continue to be developed in key consumer countries – which, in the case of Cameroon, are now both the EU and China. Within Cameroon, further analysis of the political economy of the forest sector is required. Attempts to tackle corruption should be reinforced, and this would be facilitated by examining the experience of anti-corruption efforts elsewhere in the world. Further improvements to transparency are needed; the establishment of a new independent observer will be important in achieving this goal.

The next stages of legal reform will require broad consultation among stakeholders, in particular small-scale producers as well as local communities and indigenous peoples. Efforts to promote a legal domestic market should be intensified, including more extensive training and outreach for small-scale producers and processors. Finally, to improve enforcement efforts, continued investment in the training of enforcement agents and the provision of adequate resources are required.