There is no doubt the Central Africa sub-region is rich in forest resources. The total cover of dense forests in Congo, DR Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon is about 162 million ha out of which the dense forests of the DRC, the largest ones, cover 99 million ha, about 61% of the total dense forest area. With its forest resources, Central Africa produced nearly 8.4 million m³ of timber. These important resources have for a long period contributed to population welfare in the sub-region. Unfortunately, Illegal logging has been clearly pointed out as an important cause of deforestation which negatively impacts on forest-dependent people in Central Africa sub-region. Moreover, the current legal and institutional frameworks are weak and enforcement of provisions problematic. In fact, coping with good governance in natural resources management has been challenging and problems arise when laws are incoherent, unrealistic and unenforceable, and fail to address forest land tenure and use rights.
Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade (FLEGT) was initiated in 2003 by the European Commission (EU) as a comprehensive Action Plan that can set up a sustainable reform in the forestry sector, through legislation and markets and basically built upon voluntary agreements and strong commitment of producer countries. In furtherance of its mission and commitment to managing the African forests in sustainable manner, as well as generating and sharing knowledge and information for Sustainable Forest Management, the African Forest Forum commissioned a study to assess the status and performance of FLEGT and its impact on Sustainable Forest Management in the Central Africa sub-region.
This report covers an introduction to FLEGT, status of forests in the study area, including key elements of forest policy and legislation, challenges and opportunities for socioeconomic development and environmental protection in forestry. The report also addresses the status of FLEGT in selected countries and proffers the way forward to optimizing the benefits of FLEGT. It represents a very significant contribution to the discourse on FLEGT and indeed Sustainable Forest Management in Central Africa and credit should go to Dr. Jean Lagarde Betti who prepared it on behalf of the African Forest Forum.
Prof. Godwin Kowero Executive Secretary, African Forest Forum.