Gabon's aspiration to become a world leader in certified tropical wood has taken a big step towards realization, following a special certification forum organized by the Ministry of Water and Forests in late November.
Responding to the recent declaration by President Ali Bongo Ondimba that all Gabon's forest concessions are to be certified by 2022, the forum was organized to develop concrete steps in order to reach this target.
The most significant move was the recommendation from stakeholders to the government that all forest concessions within the country should be able to prove the legality of their wood by 2022. Furthermore, all concessions should be moving towards certification, such as PAFC (PEFC members in central Africa) by 2024.
"This is fantastic news, as one of the main producers of tropical wood in Africa, it is vital that Gabon's concessionaires are able to demonstrate their sustainable forest management practices to the world," said Peter Latham, Chairman of the Board of PEFC International, while attending the forum.
"It is great to see the government is driving this move towards sustainability and we will continue to provide support to the country as it develops its certification infrastructure," added Ben Gunneberg, PEFC International CEO.
Choice of forest certification
"We welcome the decision for companies to have a choice when deciding which certification system to use," said Rose Ondo, President of PAFC Gabon, the PEFC-endorsed forest certification system of Gabon.
"Our national forest management standard uniquely addresses the distinct needs of Gabon and the Gabonese forests. The fundamental advantage of our national standard is that it is specifically designed to respect the environmental, socio-economic, cultural and legal conditions of our country."
"With the recent certification of Precious Woods, we have already welcomed our first PAFC-certified forest area in Gabon. We are now looking forward to increasing the area under PAFC certification as our country moves towards its vision as a leader in certified tropical timber," Ms Ondo concluded.
Action plan towards certification
Chaired by Jacques Denis Tsanga, Minister of Water and Forests, in charge of Environment and Sustainable Development, and with the participation of stakeholders from the forest-wood sector, the forum took place in Libreville, 22-23 November.
PEFC was well represented, with Chairman Peter Latham, CEO Ben Gunneberg and Acting Head of Development Rémi Sournia, all making the trip to Gabon, alongside the staff from PAFC Gabon.
Following two days of discussion and presentations, stakeholder produced the framework for the development of an action plan to prepare the way for widespread application of forest certification in Gabon.
"This action plan must be enriched, planned, evaluated, before being applied," said Jacques Denis Tsanga.