For the past several years, the Cameroonian forestry sector has been corroded by corruption, fiscal evasion, illegal exploitation, violation of the laws on exportation and the non-respect of protected areas, which are just some of the ills that have been plaguing forestry governance in the country.
All these illicit activities have been preventing the Cameroon government from reaping the expected dividends from its forestry endowments.
In a bid to eradicate these negative aspects of the country’s forestry governance, the World Resources Institute in partnership with diverse organisations has put in place the Open Timber Portal (OTP) which is a numeric platform for the management of data and which promotes transparency in the management of forestry resources.
The OTP platform has been operational in Cameroon since 2019 with relative success because several private enterprises are still circumspect in their adhesion to this new process.
This is despite the fact that Cameroon is the second most active country in the world on the platform with 600 users.
It is on this basis that the Cameroon government decided it was urgent to upgrade its sensitization options and to respond to this necessity, an umpteenth workshop was organized last week in Yaounde, the national capital.
During the workshop which saw the participation of representatives of private enterprises specialized in the timber trade and officials responsible for the management of the OTP, reflections were centred on consulting the private sector on the functioning and utilization of the platform with particular interest on the list of documents published and the management of the data of independent observers.
The workshop also analysed the OTP accounts with the internal traceability systems put in place by the enterprises.
According to Djeagou Achille, one of the principal officials of the OTP management, the workshop was also organised so that “the actors take time to fully understand the scheme because the forestry sector is a sensitive sector”.
“There are several actors involved in it so it is necessary to ensure that their adhesion would make them feel comfortable because they also have an economic role to play. It would not be good for them to adhere to a structure which would tarnish their image.”
“We are trying to sensitize and persuade them on the importance of the platform on a daily basis. Sometimes, we send different interlocutors who help them to understand after which the enterprise holds meetings to decide if it would be worth the while to get involved in the process,” Achille added.
Even if the adhesion process seems slow, its importance is very glaring because, according to Achille, “the device is mostly utilized at the level of the market, given that the best buys are made at the level of the international market. It is thus necessary to ameliorate its image on the international scene”.
Participants at the workshop agreed to furnish a list of documents to be updated on the platform and they also submitted proposals concerning measures to be taken towards the management of the data made available and finally the state of the OTP accounts with the internal traceability put in place by the enterprises was realized.
It should be recalled that the Open Timber Portal was launched in Cameroon on March 18, 2019, with the objective of “compiling information on forestry exploitation coming from three sources, the first one being administrative because all the producers of timber must be registered, the duration of their licenses and the concession contracts are got directly from the administrative database.
The second source concerns forestry exploiters who voluntarily publish information according to a standard list of conformity documents and the third source groups together the three parties.
In this last category, independent observers in the forestry domain and non-governmental organisations submit their observations of presumed non-conformity.