- After a lengthy process, Gabon has achieved developing a national forest certification system that is accepted internationally. This first-ever approved African national standard provides wood buyers with proof of sustainably managed forests and should ease Gabonese efforts to get good prices for their forest products.
Gabon has become the first African member of the international PEFC Council - the so-called Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes. Behind the bureaucratic name, the PEFC plays an important role to assure trade with wood and paper that only stem from sustainably managed forests.
For the Gabonese forest industry, it is quite prestigious to have its home-grown Gabonese Pan African Forest Certification System (PAFC Gabon) admitted into the international PEFC Council. Gabon only becomes the 30th PEFC member in a body totally dominated by Europe and North America. The only other tropical forestry member nations are Brazil and Malaysia.
PEFC Chairman Henri Plauche-Gillon welcomed Gabon as the first African country into the council after members unanimously voted in favour of its membership application. The PAFC Gabon certification system aims at becoming the basis of an all African standard - thus titling itself "Pan African".
Rose Ondo, President of PAFC Gabon, greeted the news of PAFC Gabon's membership in the PEFC Council. "Gabon is the first country to develop a national PAFC system. We are determined to establish standards and procedures that are compliant with the requirements of PEFC," Ms Ondo said. PAFC now is to be opened up to other African nations, wanting to develop their national standards within the system.
According to a PEFC statement, "membership of the PEFC Council now means that PAFC Gabon has taken the first step in its journey towards international endorsement and the mutual acceptance of certified tropical forests in Gabon through the PEFC system."
Before the first Okoumé timber logs - one of Gabon's most important tropical timber species, can be sold with the PEFC label - independent consultants will assess the Gabonese system against PEFC's benchmark requirements. Part of the assessment is a public consultation process, during which all interested individuals and organisations can comment on the PAFC Gabon system.
According to Ms Ondo, "Gabon has more than 10 million hectares of commercial forests offering a wide range of African tropical hardwoods. We are confident that with a PEFC endorsement, we will be able to meet the existing and fast growing demand for certified tropical timbers."
Selling its forest products with the PEFC label, Gabonese timber will be accepted as environmental proof on all major markets - meaning the European and American members of PEFC. This also assured the best possible prices for Gabonese products.
The Libreville government has worked towards PEFC membership for years. Forestry Minister Emile Doumba launched PAFC Gabon already in 2004, stating his ambition for an international recognition of the national certification scheme. Gabon and Cameroon both started these processes in 2000.
PEFC basically is a framework for the mutual recognition of credible national or regional forest certification schemes that have been developed based on internationally recognised requirements for sustainable forest management. Since its launch in 1999, PEFC has become the largest forest certification umbrella organisation covering national schemes from all over the world.
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