(Business in Cameroon) - On June 13, 2023, Cameroon's Minister of Forests and Wildlife, Jules Doret Ndongo, wrote a letter to his regional delegates, ordering them to “increase the control and seizure of all illegally harvested forest products circulating across the nation”. The move follows increasing alerts about “significant quantities of illegally harvested forest products which are being circulated and dumped on the local wood market.”
Illegal timber refers to any logging product obtained without authorization, or through illegal means like child labour, or by going against environmental regulation. It is a major issue in Cameroon. In September 2020, the FAO reported that only 27% of sawn timber supplied to the domestic market came from legal sources, implying that 73% of it was illegal.
The International Forest Research Centre (Cifor) confirmed this figure. They started a project in 2020, "Growth of Legal Timber Transactions in Cameroon," in collaboration with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife. Their research showed that three-quarters of sawn timber bought at the markets in Yaoundé, Douala, and Bertoua were from illegal sources.
Official sources claim that to circulate these illegal products nationally, forest operators often use counterfeit documents. This was noted by the Minister of Forests, Jules Ndongo, in a letter he addressed to his regional delegates in 2021.
"I was told that some shady businessmen use counterfeit secure documents, including (transport letters and DF10 work site logs) to pass illegally harvested wood, and some of your co-workers endorse and sign these transport letters without cross-checking them, or without checking the accompanying transmission forms," Ndongo wrote at the time.