Communities strengthen fight against illegal timber trade in Central Africa

1 September 2022

Chen Hin Keong

Chen Hin Keong

Acting Senior Regional Director – Asia

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Empowering Communities

The UNFCCC Africa Climate Week (ACW 2022) is unfolding this week in Gabon with the important CITES1 COP19, CBD COP15 and UNFCCC COP27 also on the horizon. At ACW this week, it is all about engaging and empowering stakeholders to drive climate action across countries, communities and economies.  

Central African rainforests are a harvesting hotspot for tropical timber in high demand from parts of Southeast Asia and China. An ongoing area of TRAFFIC’s work, currently supported by NORAD NICFI, focuses on protecting threatened tree species from illegal logging and unsustainable trade. TRAFFIC’s interventions that cut across the entire supply chain from the source in Congo Basin all the way to the consumers of Asia have their bearing; when working well, they help in efforts to reduce deforestation, illegal logging, and the associated impacts on biodiversity loss – and reduced carbon capture. 

Governments are stressing sustainable forest management and are committed to the EU FLEGT VPA Programme to harvest and sell timber through volunteer partnership agreements. This opens an avenue also for indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs) to be able to supply legal timber from their community forestry operations.”

 Denis Mahonghol, TRAFFIC Office Director, Central Africa

His Majesty MVONDO Bruno, President of ReCTRAD addresses delegates at the Timber legality training workshops held in Cameroon

“TRAFFIC, in collaboration with local partners ReCTRAD2 and RIFFEAC3, is helping IPLCs to meet the legal requirements for timber harvest and supply from their forests. We do this through capacity building and raising awareness of the rights of IPLCs, the legal tenure, access and use rights to the forest products” 

As much as 60-70% of the global timber trade is illegal. The efforts by TRAFFIC in tackling the root causes from the source to supply and onwards and engaging the IPLCs in the process are having a clear resonance. “I am quite satisfied with TRAFFIC’s activities on forest governance and involvement of IPLCs. As far as the communities are concerned, there is strong coordination being put in place now between several community forests in Cameroon, and also council forests, around the dynamics driven by the Regional Council of the South Region for legal timbers. We are confident that actions in place will be consolidated by the NORAD project, for a real impact on communities’ daily life", said his Majesty Mvondo Bruno, President of ReCTRAD

On the global level, it is also important that companies truly understand and appreciate their role in buying legal and sustainably managed timber. “Otherwise, the illegal logging is degrading the forests and affecting the ecosystem and species living in those forests”, added Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Forest Governance and Trade Timber Trade Programme Leader.

Illegal logging creates opportunities for encroachment into the forests and opens door to illegal conversion and impacts local livelihoods. Hence, in Congo Basin, our efforts to provide tools and mechanisms for companies to buy legal timber, including from IPLCs, and verify their legality, is a vitally important piece in this global puzzle of ensuring the  very existence of rainforests also in the future.” 

Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Forest Governance and Trade Programme Leader


1 The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

2 Réseau des Chefs traditionnels d'Afrique pour la conservation de l'environnement, la gestion durable des écosystemes et des forets

3 Réseau des Institutions de Formation Forestière et Environnementale de l’Afrique Centrale

About Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI):

NICFI supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries through efforts to improve forest and land management in tropical forest countries and reduce the pressure on tropical forests from global markets.