Gabon’s new forestry minister, appointed by the country’s military government after an August coup, has eased concern that the world’s second-most forested nation would abandon its role as one of the leading voices advocating the preservation of rain forests.
(Bloomberg) — Gabon’s new forestry minister, appointed by the country’s military government after an August coup, has eased concern that the world’s second-most forested nation would abandon its role as one of the leading voices advocating the preservation of rain forests.
In his first order, signed Oct. 3, Minister of Water and Forests Maurice Ntossui Allogo, instructed the timber industry to transition to a new digital tracking system to crack down on deforestation and make the industry more transparent.
Following the ousting of former president, Ali Bongo, who established a range of national parks in Gabon and appointed Lee White, a UK-born conservationist, as his forestry and climate change minister, the country’s stance on environment issues had been in the balance. In an interview last month, Samuel Jinapor, Ghana’s minister of Lands and Natural Resources, expressed concern about the putsch and a hope that Gabon would continue to play a leading role in international climate politics.
The National Traceability System of Wood from Gabon, or SNTBG, aims to halt deforestation and curb corruption in the industry by making logging data available to the public.
Timber and wood processing companies in Gabon have six months to adopt the system, Allogo said in the decree.
Gabon’s previous government banned the export of logs about a decade ago and then focused on seeking to process more wood into higher value products before shipping it to boost export income and create jobs. The country, which is about 90% covered by forest, is home to a number of valuable hardwoods.
Last year African Conservation Development Group and Cora Group of Italy announced a sustainable forestry venture that will oversee 400,000 hectares (988,400 acres) of concessions in southern Gabon as well as a timber-processing facility in Port-Gentil.
Other forestry firms operating in the country include Rougier SA, which manages close to 990,000 hectares of forest. Precious Woods Holding AG and Compagnie des Bois du Gabon each manage about 600,000 hectares.
The SNTBG is the result of a multiyear effort between the Gabonese government and organizations Code4Nature and the Environmental Investigation Agency, the EIA said in an emailed statement.
The system will include a mobile application to collect data at nine points along the supply chain on the ground, and a website to manage a data base and a portal to visually monitor the movement of goods.
“When fully implemented, the system will allow every citizen to be a part of the management of Gabon’s forests, including monitoring the legality of log trucks and of harvesting operations,” according to the EIA.
The program is “potentially a model for sustainable forest governance around the world,” Raphael Edou, Africa Program Manager at EIA-US, said.
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