Need for more concerted effort
Recently there has been a sharp rise in the demand for the threatened tree species Microberlinia bisulcata in the Cameroon timber market following a recent ban by the Cameroon government on the highly sought timber species Guibourtia mannii commonly known as Bubinga. Bubinga, is used in high-end furniture, drum shells and in both acoustic and electric guitars for its figure and hardness. The local and international demand for Zingana has thus, become alarming. Sources reveal that in the last two to three years, a cubic metre of Bubinga sold at a whooping 1.5million FCFA in Douala. This brisk business almost led to the extinction of the species in the Mt Cameroon area. Recent survey has now demonstrated that the trend in demand especially by the Chinese has moved away from Bubinga now to Microbelinia bisulcata commonly known as Zigana. Remnants of Zingana found in the Mokoko Forest Reserve and adjacent forests are being extracted wantonly to make up for this gap. These are sold to international markets which are in dire need of the timber sawn from this species. ERuDeF, together with her foreign partners Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Global Trees Campaign (GTC) and the South West Regional services of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) have been working together within the Mt Cameroon area where this species is found since 2011 to ensure that the status of the species is restored through propagation and restocking of the species in the wild. With over 17,000 threatened trees seedlings being propagated in nurseries within the area by ERuDeF, these species will be planted out in the buffer zones around the Mt Cameroon National Park. The call for concern however remains on the sustainability of these trees when eventually planted out in the wild. It becomes very imperative for the government to consider measures of reducing or putting an end to the extinction of threatened species.
Recently, in most countries, timber obtaining policies have been considered and implemented by public agencies, trade associations, and private companies in many traditional tropical timber markets. In order to address public concerns about the environmental credentials of products made from timber, criteria is added into the decision making process. Many purchasers are demanding that timber products come from sustainable, or legal sources that can be traced, in order to maintain credibility with public opinion. These types of policies have significant implications for tropical timber suppliers if fully implemented and need to be considered as well.
There is a therefore a dire need for tropical timber producing countries such as Cameroon, to understand the human resources, cost implications and possible benefits that could be derived from the implementation of adequate measures. These should meet the criteria set in procurement policies in tropical timber importing countries.
More than 60 percent of Cameroon’s rainforests are under management systems that emphasize sustainability, yet further reform is needed. Deeper recognition of the customary rights of all people who depend on Cameroon’s forests, regardless of ethnicity, is vital. Cameroon needs qualified eco-investors to sustain conservation and diminish reliance on timber production.
By Asa’a Lemawah