Published 20 Tháng mười hai 2023


Africa and Asia Timber Industries Embark on a New Era of Legal and Sustainable Cooperation

Through a quick succession of exchange visits and conferences, TRAFFIC has engaged different links in the timber supply chain to support them in reforming the trade between the Congo Basin and destination markets in Asia.

For the first time, timber associations from the two major Asian destinations of African timber came together to work towards a legal and sustainable industry that will put an end to the overexploitation of one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, the rainforests of the Congo Basin.

TRAFFIC has been ramping up engagement with the timber sector to connect industry stakeholders from the supply countries of Cameroon and the Congo and the destination markets in China and Viet Nam.

Unchecked deforestation in the Congo Basin not only unsustainably uproots trees and throws ecosystems off balance, but results in tax losses, undermines sustainable livelihoods, and contributes to the climate change crisis. We are urgently providing the timber industry with the knowledge, tools, and collaborative opportunities to eradicate illicit timber from supply chains and ensure that only legal and sustainable trade can continue."

Ling XU, Director of TRAFFIC in China

Mr Nguyen Van Tien, Delegation Leader, presented at the Sustainable Wood Industry Cooperation & Development Forum. © TRAFFIC

The series of events began in Nanning, China, with the Sustainable Wood Industry Cooperation and Development Seminar, organised by TRAFFIC, China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA), and the Chinese Academy of Forestry. Many Vietnamese associations1 were also in attendance.

The knowledge deficit between the different supply chain countries’ national regulations is a major barrier in achieving a legal, sustainable timber supply. The seminar gave stakeholders in China and Viet Nam the chance to familiarise themselves with wood import and export regulations, as well as discuss the conservation implications of current market demand.

On top of this, TRAFFIC is working on practical tools and guidance that will make this information more readily available, including a repository of regulatory information and timber trade.

In addition, automated wood identification will ensure consistency in species knowledge and simplify the identification of protected and CITES-listed species. At the seminar, timber associates were invited to partner with TRAFFIC in this venture by providing specimen samples that can be used in this app’s development. In this way, TRAFFIC is holding the timber industry to account on their spoken commitments to achieve a legal, sustainable timber trade.

This is a good learning process, allowing industry players to understand the risks of illegal, unsustainable practices, and how to avoid them. The fact that these tools are to be made available to industry as well as enforcement authorities will afford companies a tighter control on their supply chains."

Mr. Li Jiafeng, President of CTWPDA

Top: Wood stored at the industrial park. © TRAFFIC
Bottom: Raw material at a timber processing site, the sheets of wood are used to create furniture. © TRAFFIC

The exchange of information went both ways, as TRAFFIC staff also had the opportunity to deepen their understanding of timber sourcing, forestry standards, processing technologies, species use and wood products during visits to four Chinese timber companies.

A significant date in the timber industry’s calendar this year was the first Global Forestry Industry Conference, organised by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China. In addition to TRAFFIC’s industry exchange events, TRAFFIC representatives attended CTWPDA’s 13th China Global Timber Conference, hosted at the global event. Here, TRAFFIC reported on efforts under the NICFI project to over 500 leading entrepreneurs, government officials and professionals from across the globe, while major timber supply countries shared world timber trade information and expressed commitment to promoting green investment in the timber sector.

"We are catalyzing the timber industry to clean up supply chains - demonstrating the imperative for immediate action while providing the tools and connections to do so. It's exciting to see this work coming to fruition as the industry becomes increasingly motivated and unified," says Trinh Nguyen, Director of TRAFFIC in Vietnam.

But industry cannot drive change alone. Authorities must also leverage legal timber through supportive legislation and enforcement. TRAFFIC attended the latest meeting on Operation Mekong Dragon in Hanoi - an international operation combating drug and endangered species smuggling in Asia/Pacific. Ms. Nguyen briefed customs authorities on wildlife trafficking updates in the region. Her briefing garnered much interest and questions from attendees, who were keen to continually receive such information from TRAFFIC to support Operation Mekong Dragon efforts going forward.

Meeting with the Minister of Forestry Economy of Congo, Madam Rosalie Matondo. © TRAFFIC

The series of Africa and Asia timber industry exchange visits ended in Cameroon and the Congo from 11 to 17 December 2023. In turn, the Chinese delegation was able to appreciate developments in forestry management in both countries, to meet relevant stakeholders, including the timber associations, the network of local community chiefs managing forests-ReCTrad, Chinese companies established in both countries and exceptionally they met the two Ministers in charge of Forestry. On these occasions, CTWPDA officially invited the Ministers to participate in the upcoming gathering they will be organising in September 2024 to discuss the world of timber and wood products trade.

“We are facilitating communication and cooperation across the supply chain. A mechanism that allows direct business connection between source and destination countries would make the trade more traceable and minimise opportunities for illicit timber to infiltrate legal supply chains,” Denis Mahonghol, Director of TRAFFIC in Central Africa, explains.

If there is one key area we should work on together, this would be exchanging data and information in real-time and making our agencies accountable to avoid discrepancies in timber trade volumes and false statistics between our countries."

Mr. Jules Doret Ndongo, Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Cameroon.

TRAFFIC is carrying out this work under the Leveraging Legality along China’s Timber Supply to Reduce Deforestation project, supported through Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI).

The group visited a sea port, where the control process for approving a timber shipment was explained (left) and the experimental forest of the National School of Forestry of Cameroon.


1 The delegation of workshop attendees from Viet Nam comprised representatives from the Forest Production Association FPA Binh Dinh, Ho Chi Minh Handicraft and Wood Processing Association HAWA, Dong Nai Wood Association DOWA, Binh Duong Forest Processing BIFA, Viet Nam Forestry Science and Technology Association, Viet Nam Academy of Forest Sciences and Vietnamese timber companies.

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.