The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) commends the Gabonese government’s decision, through Ministerial Order #001 signed by the Minister of Water and Forests, Colonel Maurice Ntossui Allogho, to transition its entire forest sector to a traceable and transparent system of forest governance. The new national system aims to generate and make key forest data electronically available to the public and track all timber products from the stump to the port. All logging and wood processing companies operating in Gabon now have six months to adopt the system and make it theirs.
The National Traceability System of Wood of Gabon (SNTBG) is the result of a multi-year joint effort from the Gabonese government, EIA, and Code4Nature. SNTBG, developed by EIA and Code4Nature, transitions Gabon’s timber sector from paper-based to digital permits. Wood products companies will use the SNTBG Android mobile application to create digital records of every step in the supply chain, from the inventory of standing trees, through harvest, transport, processing, and export. Company managers and government officials can manage their operations through the SNTBG Web Application and Geoportal. Forest sector operators are allowed to continue using other third-party traceability systems, provided those systems gather the required data, and transmit it to the national system.
Gabon’s system sets a new global standard for forest governance that allows global consumers to trace timber products back to their point of origin in the forest along a digital, verifiable supply chain. With the recent EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) requiring companies to conduct extensive due diligence on their international supply chains for timber and other deforestation-linked goods, this new traceability and transparency system represents a critical step in supporting Gabon’s forestry industry while addressing endemic corruption within the forestry sector.
“Fighting corruption and transnational crimes in our African economies requires all hands on deck,” said Raphael Edou, Africa Program Manager at EIA US. “Today, Gabon’s vision of a transparent forest that exists for and is governed by all its people provides hope, and potentially a model for sustainable forest governance around the world.”
In 2019, in the report Toxic Trade and the Raw Intelligence series, EIA US exposed the systemic corruption and entrenched forest illegalities that plagued Gabon’s industrial logging sector. While the struggle against corruption and illegalities in the forest has become a national priority, voices have risen from the forest denouncing enduring crimes and indicating that systemic corruption and illegalities are still major unsolved challenges in Gabon.
“As an organization specialized in the independent monitoring of timber flows, we look forward to seeing this national system connected to other independent systems developed by private operators,” said Marc Ona, President of the Gabonese civil society organization Brainforest. “Increasing the role and responsibilities of independent monitoring in Gabon must be a national priority.”
The Ministerial order designates Gabon’s indigenous peoples, forest communities, and civil society as watchdogs for the proper implementation of the system, in order to ensure good forest governance. 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.
As the Three Basin Summit and Climate CoP28 are looming on the horizon, Gabon is showing the world what technological and political innovation, in service of forest governance and climate solutions, could look like in practice. Gabon’s new national timber traceability system represents a step forward for Gabon’s forests, which form an important part of the country’s economy, second only to oil.
As the transition toward technology-based traceability becomes the new normal in Gabon, lasting improvement of forest governance will ultimately rely on how Gabonese forest communities, civil society organizations, and citizens are permitted to use the new tool to serve as guardians of Gabon’s forests.