GABON: Financing the fight against deforestation and encouraging Responsible Management, the former DGs of ATIBT speak – Part 2


It seemed interesting to us to take up in this forum the reactions of two former ATIBT leaders, Messrs Landrot and Groutel, to the latest announcements from Gabon.

« Minister Lee White’s statement is so true when he says, in his last interview with Le Monde, « No one is willing to pay the right price to save tropical forests » [1].

To go against this principle by going to get Norwegian funding himself, on the eve of the climate summit convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, you had to be trust it. We also had to keep in mind what we can contribute to saving, we think of course of our dear assalas (elephant)[2] but also of those who live in and around the forest.

It is clear that Gabon is certainly the best country in the region able to combine harmonious development while preserving its magnificent forests.  Some kind of African Costa Rica? This original position is due to a combination of political will, the population’s attachment to its heritage, a contained demography, remarkable forest cover, the possibility of mobilizing other resources and finally, the presence of a unique fauna.

Ten years ago, the tone had already been set with the obligation to process wood on site, then by the recent commitment to 100% certification by 2022 and finally, by this profound work to fight against non-compliant dealers. On this last point, which is very delicate, we can only encourage and thank the Minister and his teams for their constant perseverance.

As already mentioned, the certification is not going well. Too expensive? Misunderstood? Little reward? With products that are subject to international competition from low-cost offers from industrial plantations or from illegal woods? What if, in addition to these cumulative factors, there were to be taken into account a certain form of weakness in the support granted to companies involved in these schemes of excellence? What does this mean?

That other resources must be brought in. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)[3]. Today, responsible foresters manage too much complexity: production, human resource management, logistics, investments, foresight, markets, currencies, fuel prices, etc., all in a « normal » register, but to which must be added all that we have already stressed before and which cannot be financed solely by the private sector and the sale of wood.

It is essential to admit that the forestry sector cannot tackle all the uncertainties of the market, but that it must remain a first-class relay in the territories. Forest authorities, national parks already have considerable areas to cover, they need allies.

Forests are at the heart of new principles, including « zero carbon » and « zero imported deforestation ». As a recent article by Fordaq points out: « Never before has the forest received such media attention in the world, even though it is true that it has been so for the past two or three years. The forest is becoming the international marker for the fight against climate change [4]. There too, Gabon has a fantastic card to play, a little over a year before the Kunming conference

This 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) on biological diversity has as its ambition: « No net loss for ecosystems in 2030″[5]. Everyone considers that this cannot be done without the joint work of « all those whose activity impacts biodiversity: States, companies, local authorities, investors » (Ibidem).

It is relevant to believe that a response to international concerns (zero imported deforestation) naturally requires certification.

It is finally a question of:

– Pool efforts to ensure that the support obtained is fairly distributed;

– Consider biodiversity and carbon credits shared between the State, the community and the forest manager;

– Putting IFLs[6] in carbon credits or High Conservation Values;

– Encourage the Gabonese government in its FSC policy 100% 2022;

– Increase the forest area of certified companies by creating 4 leaders grouping FMUs[7] to reach 2 million hectares each;

– Provide support to smaller foresters;

– Allow and encourage the use of Made in Gabon only for certified wood.

Could Gabon be a new Costa Rica?

In fact, Gabon, with its particular characteristics, with the support of countries such as Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the USA and the EU… and why not China and India, can develop a « Gabonese model ».

What is being implemented in Gabon is simply a note of hope. What if it could be a start? An inspiring model?  However, the markets must relay the process. On this point, the strict application of due diligence rules is essential.

The whole world must support Gabon because what Gabon is proposing today is an example of virtuous development that preserves the environment and shows the way forward for the other countries in the region. »

Emmanuel Groutel

[1] “No-one is prepared to pay a fair price to save rainforests”. [2] Nom donné aux éléphants de forêt. [3] Biodiversité, eau, sols, carbone et accueil du public. [4] Fordaq 23 sept 19. [5] [6] Intact Forest Landscape – Paysage Forestier Intact  [7] Unités Forestières d’Aménagement

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