Formalizing artisanal logging in Central Africa

Central Africa’s national and regional timber markets are booming. Across the region, rapid population growth, urbanization and economic development are driving an increase in domestic demand for sawn timber, which in many countries is already more important in volume than demand for industrial timber for export. However, consumers’ purchasing power remains weak, and in general they lack interest in the origin of the timber they buy – two important considerations that contribute to the prevailing informality of local markets. Domestic demand is mostly met by artisanal loggers, who are quite well organized, yet operate outside of existing legal frameworks. The informal logging sector creates many jobs and generates significant revenues in both rural and urban areas. In Cameroon, for instance, chainsaw milling provides 45,000 direct jobs and generates more than 20 billion FCFA ($33 million) in revenues, according to a study led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). But these jobs are precarious. Because small-scale timber producers lack legal protection, they have irregular incomes and their activities are vulnerable to corruption and authorities’ abuse.

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