Health measures and local initiatives have been coordinated since the beginning of the crisis in order to protect employees and preserve the activities of the timber industry in the Congo Basin.
Paris, May 4th, 2020 – The forestry companies that are members of the ATIBT (Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux) have swung into action to counter, at their level, the development of Covid-19 in Africa. Their objectives: to protect their employees and the indigenous populations, but also to pursue the activity of a responsible sector essential to the economic balance of these countries, where wood is one of the most important contributors to the public treasury.
Thus, five companies based in Cameroon, Congo and Gabon are working to sustain the human, social and economic ecosystem of entire regions. The main objective is to maintain their FSC and PEFC-PAFC certified wood export activities.
Their prevention and care programmes are supported by the German Development Bank KFW through Fair&Precious, the brand promoting sustainable forest management.
In this context of international health crisis, Africa is resisting the spread of Covid-19 and is organising itself to limit its economic impact in countries where the timber industry employs thousands of workers who fear losing their livelihood. Thus, five companies specializing in the production and export of certified African wood took the initiative implement their own educational and health programmes, adapted to the lifestyles of local populations. At the heart of these initiatives, a call for awareness raising to inform, educate and protect workers and their families in the fight against the pandemic.
Focus on the measures taken by the association’s member companies:
The Interholco company (North Congo), employs 1000 employees:
As Ulrich Grauert, Managing Director, points out: « Interholco not only invests but also calls on an additional solidarity fund. We have launched a Citizens’ Alliance to increase prevention and mitigation efforts in the northern part of the Republic of Congo. In a remote area, 1,000 km from the capital Brazzaville, our IFO’s medical facilities already serve a population of 16,000 people on a daily basis. We need a true « culture of alliance » to combat the spread of COVID-19. »
Rougier (Gabon) employs 1,100 people (forest and industry), including 600 employees and families on isolated forest sites:
All the measures taken were very quickly formalised in a COVID-19 emergency plan at the beginning of April 2019.
The CIB-Olam Company (Northern Congo) employs 1,800 employees (permanent and temporary).
The company has committed a budget of 300 million CFA francs. This also includes offering protective equipment to the regional authorities (masks, suits, hydro-alcoholic gels, infrared thermometers) with a total value of more than 100 million CFA francs to equip the medical infrastructure for the local population.
« We have been established for more than 51 years in Northern Congo and we are one with the communities around us. It was therefore clear that our response to the threat was not only for our employees and their families, but also for the entire population and our partners. We believe that this health crisis is further evidence of the link between environment and health and of the importance of investing in health as part of sustainable ecosystem management, » said Vincent Istace, CRS Director at CIB.
The company PALLISCO-CIFM (Mindourou and Douala, Cameroon), employs 500 people:
Precious Woods (Libreville and Lastoursville, Gabon), employs 880 people in Africa.
All these measures and initiatives aim to protect the populations and to allow the tropical wood industry certified in sustainable management to continue to provide a certain stability to the countries of the Congo Basin in a context of global health crisis.
In both Gabon and Cameroon, the companies feel strongly supported by the government services in their efforts to keep the industry active and to protect all employees and their families.
The International Tropical Timber Technical Association was founded in 1951 at the request of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Serving the « tropical timber » sector, from the forest to the final consumer, the association plays a leading role in the implementation of international projects dedicated to the sustainable and responsible management of tropical forests. It also positions itself as one of the best technical and scientific references for tropical wood resources. Between 2016 and 2019, the ATIBT saw an increase of nearly 50% in the number of its members, bringing its membership to more than 130. Alongside European players in the « African tropical timber » sector, the ATIBT brings together states (Republic of Congo, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic), other African (Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, DRC) and European professional associations, NGOs (such as WWF and the Prince Albert II Foundation) and major companies.
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Audrey Emanuel :
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« The Fair&Precious programme for the promotion of sustainable management in tropical forests is supported by the Forest Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC) through the German Cooperation (KfW) and the French Development Agency (AFD) ».