Impacts of international timber procurement policies on Central Africa's forestry sector: the case of Cameroon

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Public concerns about the environmental credentials of timber products have led to the introduction of procurement policies that add criteria other than price into the decision-making process. This demand-driven initiative alongside the importance of European markets for timber exports have prompted Cameroon to sign a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT/VPA) with the European Union. This paper reviews the impacts of this policy. Firstly, the institutional arrangement for timber production is presented with special focus on various legal forms of forest exploitation. Secondly, the estimated costs for the required development and control of various types of forest management are presented. Finally the impacts of the FLEGT/VPA on forest governance, forest management, timber trade and socio-economic and development issues is explored. The positive impact of the agreement will be especially felt by industrial forest concession holders that harvest timber products for exports to international markets, but it will hardly be the case of community forests. However, the implementation of the agreement will engender huge financial costs for forest managers and national governments. Also, the livelihoods of small-scale loggers (who are the main suppliers of national markets) may be adversely affected by the procurement policies.

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