Cameroon's bid to curb illegal logging

Posted: 12 June 2002

The Government of Cameroon has signed an agreement to share data and maps about the country's forests, with the World Resources Institute's Global Forest Watch, in a bid to curb rampant illegal logging.

"Widespread illegal logging contributes to the destruction of forests and the loss of badly needed revenues across much of Central Africa, the second biggest rainforest in the world," said Jonathan Lash, president of World Resources Institute (WRI). "This landmark partnership with the Government of Cameroon will provide the data needed to promote law enforcement to curb this destruction."

This is the first map-based monitoring agreement of its kind in Africa, and is the first entered into by the two-year-old Global Forest Watch.

The agreement stipulates that Cameroon's Ministry of Environment and Forests (MINEF) will provide Global Forest Watch with information on forest concessions and allocations in the country. In turn, WRI will produce reports on the state of forest concessions in Cameroon and create maps that will enable MINEF officials to detect illegal logging in the country.

Maps of logging roads created by Global Forest Watch from satellite imagery, combined with accurate information on where logging may legally take place, will permit the identification of problem areas and prioritize them for field audits. Satellite imagery makes it possible to detect new logging roads outside of active concession areas and in national parks. They will also help to determine whether the rate and extent of logging follows forest management plans.

The information will be publicly available and can be accessed through the website, http://www.globalforestwatch.org.

"We can employ the latest modern technologies like satellite imagery, but without the cooperation of the government and our local partners, we can never successfully provide the needed data to conserve Cameroon's remaining forests," said Dirk Bryant, founder and co-director of Global Forest Watch.

About 76 per cent or over 17 million hectares of Cameroon's forests - totaling some 22.8 million hectares - have either been logged or are allocated as logging concessions. Less than a fifth of the country's unprotected forests, mostly in central and eastern Cameroon, remain free from logging. Only about 6 percent or 1.4 million hectares of Cameroon's forests are protected as national parks or reserves.

However, recent studies by Global Forest Watch reveal that large tracts of Cameroon's forests which were originally thought of as untouched have already been accessed by logging roads. The most severe impact of logging and road construction on wildlife in Central Africa is the expanded movement of commercial hunters into remote forests. Commercial-scale hunting of this kind, much of it to supply urban markets, has left many forests empty of key animal species.

Cameroon's forests contain some of the Congo Basin's most biologically diverse and most threatened forests. The region's tropical forests, which covered more than 198 million hectares in 1995, are the second largest contiguous rain forests in the world after those of the Amazon. It runs through six Central African countries, including Cameroon.

Global Forest Watch is an initative of the World Resources Institute, and environmental think-tank that goes beyond research to create practical ways to protect the Earth and improve people's lives.