WWF today announced that more than one million hectares of Congo Basin forests have achieved certification under the world’s leading sustainable forestry scheme. The world’s second largest block of rainforests, the Congo Basin is a haven for indigenous peoples and endangered species like elephants and gorillas. It is also important in sequestering carbon and safeguarding water supply and quality.
“With rampant illegal logging, vague logging concession boundaries and massive blocks of pristine forest destined for the chainsaw, this is a laudable step towards avoiding an ecological disaster,” says James P. Leape, Director General of WWF.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification has now been achieved for forestry operations on 1.2 million hectares, a significant step towards WWF’s Green Heart of Africa network initiative goal of having certification achieved for 50% of production forest in the Congo Basin. The certification involves logging companies SEFAC, Transformation Reef Cameroon (TRC) and WIJMA in Cameroon and CIB in the Republic of Congo.
“While the certified forests will have to be maintained according to acceptable international standards, there is urgent need for other timber business operations in the region to adopt responsible forest management practices in order to ensure the conservation of this unique forest ecosystem for the benefit of people in the region and the world,” added Mr. Leape.
To promote responsible forest management and trade in the Congo Basin, WWF-CARPO has set up the Central Africa Forest and Trade Network (CAFTN), a part of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) – which works to provide support, advice and guidance to logging companies to help them better understand how good logging practices can contribute to conservation of biodiversity, improve the livelihood of local communities and lead to a market advantage.
“Illegal forest exploitation and forest crimes are largely due to poor governance and insufficient law enforcement,” said Laurent Somé, WWF Central Africa Regional Programme Office (CARPO)'s Representative.. “WWF also recognizes that responsible forest management plays an important role in the economic growth of tropical countries and reducing poverty in forest communities.
“WWF is convinced that the adoption of responsible forestry schemes by logging companies will contribute greatly to the conservation of the Congo Basin forests and towards improving the national economy and also improve the livelihoods of local communities,” Mr Some said. “For the success of responsible forestry in the Congo basin, there is a high need for government to set up enabling conditions that include enacting adequate legislation and enforcement, and promoting good governance while providing support to responsible forestry initiatives.”
By 2012, WWF expects that 7 million hectares of forest in the Congo Basin will be under credible certification while another 5 million hectares will be progressing towards credible certification.