This 3-year project has supported the implementation of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, and Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa. The EU’s FLEGT programme supports partner countries to improve forest governance towards sustainable and legal management of their forests so that all wood exported to the EU is compliant with partner countries’ forest laws and policies. In DRC and Côte d’Ivoire, the project has focussed on VPA negotiations, while in Ghana and Cameroon it has supported effective VPA implementation. Sharing knowledge, learning and experiences between all countries has also been very important. You can read about the goals and expected outputs here and you can get lots of information about the FLEGT here.
The project partners have been Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER) in Cameroon, Reseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN) in the DRC, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the International Centre for Enterprise and Sustainable Development (ICED) in Ghana, with financial support from the European Union.
The project activities have been a mix of awareness raising, dialoguing, training in skills, field visits, sharing experiences, establishing structures for dialogue and communication, and disseminating information. Stakeholders have been drawn from the full length of the timber production and supply chain from local forest communities to Ministers in charge of forests. Bringing all these stakeholders together for awareness raising and training has also helped develop good communications between stakeholders in forest management and use. Below are links to the specific activities carried out to achieve the results. Different activities have been implemented in each country depending on the stage of their FLEGT VPA.
Activities for expected result 1 towards effectively engaging stakeholders in national FLEGT/VPA negotiation and implementation
Activities for expected result 2 towards sharing information and experiences on forest governance to strengthen FLEGT VPA negotiation and implementation
Activities for expected result 3 towards improved public awareness and transparency in forest sector governance
Activities for expected result 4 towards increased visibility of and demand for legal timber by timber producers, traders and consumers
What we achieved overall
The project promoted strong inter-regional, national and grassroots-level partnerships and collaborations aimed at producing positive and sustainable results in all the four countries towards negotiation and implementation of the FLEGT/VPA.
It has achieved all its expected results in that: private timber companies, local communities, CSOs, CBOs, SMEs, domestic timber market actors, timber trade associations, media houses, and state institutions are now engaging effectively with FLEGT negotiation and implementation processes in their respective countries; Dialogue platforms for discussing forest governance issues are established at local and national levels and are contributing to FLEGT/VPA processes; Public awareness and transparency in the forest sector have improved; and Visibility of and demand for FLEGT licensed timber among private and public actors have increased.
The expected results have been achieved through a mix of raising awareness, training in skills, establishing dialogue structures, sharing experiences, and participating in field visits. The project has included forest actors and activities along the whole of the timber production and supply chain from cutting the trees to selling and exporting the timber. As such it has been both holistic and inclusive in its approaches.
Some key observations from the project include:
- Whereas CSOs within the West Africa sub-region are making significant efforts to reduce existing barriers of inclusion, serious challenges still exist including the local socio-technical constraints and the transaction costs of legality compliance procedures
- Domestic market reform is crucial to VPA implementation in all the four target countries. These reforms will require both the systems and commodity approaches involving all key actors along the commodity value chain, including SMEs, artisanal millers, timber traders, domestic wood producers, financial institutions, policy makers, regulators and research centres to interact and provide joint solutions to market constraints. It will also require strong interaction between the media, consumers (values, behaviours, attitudes, perceptions) and timber market systems
- Ensuring inclusiveness of and active interaction between all these actors is essential for ensuring effective implementation, sustainability and independent monitoring of the FLEGT VPA and good forest governance in all countries.
Overall, more than 9000 people from CSOs, communities, VPA focal persons, media, SMEs, government officials, and local representatives have been empowered with skills and knowledge to engage in the FLEGT/VPA awareness, negotiation, implementation and monitoring processes in the four project countries. The project has strengthened the capacities of 190 domestic timber producer groups, SMEs and wood trader groups to comply with the Timber Legality Assurance System requirements and engage effectively with the FLEGT/VPA negotiation and implementation processes in their respective country. Project monitoring and follow up reports indicate that the project has successfully advanced inclusive FLEGT negotiation and implementation processes in the project countries.
At the community level, the forums have given forest fringe communities and other grassroots stakeholders a role in forest management decision-making in Ghana. This is crucial because they have been excluded from such processes in the past; meanwhile they depend heavily on the forests for their needs and livelihoods, as well as for spiritual renewal and traditional practices. The various trainings have raised awareness and built capacities of local actors and communities, and they are now demanding their rights to forest ownership, access and use.
The project has contributed substantially towards improving transparency and strengthening good governance in the forest sector thereby resulting in a vibrant civil society with the requisite technical capacity to implement an effective IM-FLEGT program. Local forest communities are in the right place to ensure protection of the forest and so they have an extremely important role in FLEGT implementation. They are now recognised as crucial stakeholders in monitoring forest operations, but they lack a strong reporting mechanism. This has led to innovative recommendations such as the testing of community level journalism as a complementary tool to forest monitoring operations.
From the knowledge and capacity gained by participants in the various training activities, they are now analysing and interpreting the forest laws and regulations and have a better understanding of issues related to compliance and consistency. Awareness campaigns have raised the interest of the urban middle class to step up their advocacy efforts in support of forest communities to compel governments to enforce the forestry laws. Media interest in forest, environment and forest governance has really increased as a result of the project and they will be encouraged to sustain this in the future.