A ‘second wave’ of certification in the Congo Basin is expected to boost the area of certified sustainable forest in the region to 10 million ha by 2025. FSC accreditation of Gabon Advanced Wood and PAFC validation of fellow Gabonese operation Bois et Sciages de l’Ogooué in 2022 added 474,690 ha to the certified area, taking the total to 5,866,756 ha. According to the Central Africa Forest Observatory (OFAC), this represents 12% of the Congo Basin’s exploitable forests.
The certified total is currently spread across three countries, the Republic of the Congo (RoC) (2,989,168 ha), Gabon (2,535,880 ha), and Cameroon (341,708 ha). In addition, Alpicam-Grumcam has achieved FSC certification of four management units (FMUs) this year in the districts of Kadey, Boumba, and Ngoko in eastern Cameroon covering 353,388 ha. This development reinforces the ATIBT in its conviction that the 10 million hectares certified milestone will be reached in 12 years. Its Certification Commission has assessed the area, analysed forest certification data, and looked at incentives for getting certified across the Congo Basin. It concludes that a further 4.2 million ha of forest, managed by 13 companies, will be certified by 2025, a 73% increase on today’s total. More than half of it will be in Gabon, where prospective new rules are set to oblige forest concession managers to gain certification. The remainder will be divided between Cameroon and the RoC.
The ATIBT identifies several certification drivers in the region. These include the broad support for certification from the Programme for the Promotion of Certified Forest Operations (PPECF), notably through its ‘coaching’ programme, which includes financing of private operator’s ‘upgrading action plans’. It also cites the PEFC’s endorsement of the PAFC Congo Basin scheme, which supports and encourages certification across Cameroon, Gabon, and the RoC and is the first regional PEFC scheme. “The implementation of the European Union’s new zero deforestation regulation (EUDR), expected early 2025, will also have an impact on this dynamic, as certification is considered [under the new rules] as a tool to assess and reduce risk of illegality and implication in deforestation and forest degradation”, said the ATIBT. It also sees political and regulatory factors pushing certification. Gabon has led the way by setting a target for all forest management businesses to be certified by 2025. The result of this is unsure, among others due to the coup d’état in Gabon last summer. Meanwhile, in the RoC a new Forestry Law awaiting implementing legislation stipulates that “Forestry companies shall certify the management of forest concessions”.
“Although considered a purely private initiative, there is growing interest in the use of forest certification as a public policy tool by providing incentives for its adoption or making it mandatory” concluded the ATIBT. “Forest certification is now recognized as a means of combating deforestation and forest degradation by ensuring timber is legally harvested.” To further accelerate certification uptake, the market must be persuaded to pay a premium for certified timber so producers are ‘compensated for the direct and indirect costs of certification’. The value of certification should also be formally recognised and acknowledged in the EUDR.