Community Forestry contributes to livelihoods in Cameroon but still faces challenges to become a viable business and to qualify for FSC certification.
The IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative Congo Basin Program’s (CBP) goal is to increase the area of FSC certified forest in the Congo Basin by 4 million hectares in 2015. The support to partner companies consists of co-financing the most needed services during a FSC certification trajectory and monitoring their implementation.
In 2012 Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services (FSAS) has contributed to two aspects of the IDH Congo Basin Program (CBP):
- The social aspects and inclusion of community forestry in the CBP program, with a focus on Cameroon; and
- Contribution to the development of a buddy-system for service providers, aiming to build local capacity by coupling experienced service providers with less experienced service providers.
Download the full FSAS report “Community Forestry in the Congo Basin Program”.
Variable performance but growing numbers and area
A large and increasing portion of the Cameroonian forest (non-permanent forest estate) has come or is coming under control of communities; by 2010 some 180 Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) had signed management agreements, covering 677,000 ha. Another 300,000 ha is in the application phase.
Research (by CIFOR, Cuny a.o.) has shown that Cameroonian community forests in most cases contribute to livelihoods and to sustainable management and local control of forests. However due to low level of organization, business skills and access to credit their performance is very variable and the exploitation rate is low. Many NGOs provide support in e.g. facilitating forest inventories, obtaining management agreements from the ministry, and organizing the communities. FSAS recommends to adopt a value chain perspective and to strengthen entrepreneurship (engaging in community forests as an enterprise), business skills, credit worthiness and access to credit and markets. Last but not least more attention is needed for ownership and gender issues as contributing factors to the success of upgrading support.
Including community forests in the IDH Congo Basin Program – certification
None of the Community Forest Enterprises in Cameroon is currently certified, nor can it be expected that this will happen autonomously in the next 3-5 years. Reasons are:
- practically none of their buyers request or demand FSC certified timber
- low production volumes versus high costs of certification.
The CBP can play a role and provide incentives to a selected group of Community Forest Enterprises to overcome the abovementioned hurdles.
CBP support to community forestry should start by working with the most advanced CFEs which have sufficient and accessible volumes of commercial timber species and high end niche markets. Only with sufficient volumes the high certification costs can be covered. Through a step by step approach capacities can gradually be built up towards the ultimate aim of FSC certification with intermediate milestones of legal verification and FSC Controlled Wood. During the process intermediate assessments should be made to ensure the profitability of pursuing FSC Group certification.
The Congo Basin Program has taken further steps down this road and has started a pilot project on group certification of community forests in cooperation with ‘Fair Tropical Timber’.
Financial services to SMEs in Cameroon
Through desk study the financial services of the major finance institutions in Cameroon were mapped and assessed. FSAS identified a few potential financial service providers for the agricultural and forestry Small and Medium Enterprises.
Download The Access to Finance report.
Buddy system service providers
Even though 9 service providers showed serious interest, none of them submitted a buddy proposal in the end. The main bottleneck was the very limited demand for CBP services by concession holders so far. As a result, service providers were not sure if their effort for a buddy proposal would indeed lead to additional sales of services. FSAS has advised CBP to renew its invitation to submit buddy proposals once a substantial and consistent demand for services has developed.
Jochem Schneemann (Consultant Market and Value chain Development)
Phone: + 31 6 835 981 94
For more information on the Financial Sector study please contact:
Lisette van Benthum (consultant Business Development and Access to Finance)
Phone: + 31 6 835 981 85
Congo Basin Program:
Phone: +31 38 444 89 90