Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in Cameroon: perceived private sector benefits from VPA implementation

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This paper broadly defines the private forestry sector to include timber enterprises ranging from small-scale chainsaw loggers to industrial timber producers, all of which will be directly affected by VPA implementation in Cameroon. This paper argues that certain international forest policies, although aiming at fostering well-intentioned reforms, may cause further expansion and power concentration of the already dominant large concession groupings and simultaneous marginalization and fragmentation of smaller forestry enterprises in the Congo Basin. We explore this argument through twenty-four semi-structured interviews with large and small scale enterprises to better understand how they think they may benefit (or not) from the changes foreseen by VPA implementation. The perceived benefits include the elimination of illegal players, a reduction in corruption and poverty, the promotion of business opportunities, and the valorization of investments. The way in which some of these benefits are expected to materialize may suggest a lack of congruence between the aims of Cameroon's VPA and private sector expectations. Not only may this lead to disappointment and a sense of demotivation among some of the main stakeholders, it also may lead to further fragmentation in the forest sector. The results therefore indicate that the success of VPA implementation in Cameroon depends on its ability to go beyond the timber legality verification for European markets argument and uphold its stated socioeconomic development objectives.

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