In May and June 2012, FCTV carried out a series of Focus Group Discussions with forest-based communities living around the periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve and bordering timber concessions, wood cut areas and community and council forests in order to identify their priority concerns. The Focus Group Discussions were carried out within the context of FCTV’s EU funded project Participatory FLEGT.
The key priority issues raised by communities included:
– Communities have no access to management plans for logging areas
– Communities not included in the development of ‘cahiers de charge’ (particularly relating to social contracts/community development plans)
– Wood that has a diameter below legal limits is regularly cut
– Rules concerning types of wood and quantities allowed to be cut not respected (Moabi in particular is being decimated in Somalomo)
– In Djoum a number of FMUs border the DBR; there’s no clear demarcation of limits and logging is frequently carried out inside the DBR
– In Djoum, increased elephant poaching in the FMUs has been noted of late
– In community forests, exploiters don’t pay the community the legal amounts for timber extraction and when communities complain to local authorities, they are ignored.
– In community forests, when communities drop off their legal documents for signing, they are often withheld unless the communities pay bribes (these can be as much as several hundred £)
– In some community forests, no record is kept of the amount of wood logged etc so the communities have no way of challenging the exploiter
– Complicity between exploiters and local authorities mean that, even when a clear case of abuse is signalled, the communities are ignored
– No knowledge of existing or planned “traceability” systems
– Widespread illegal trade of “letters of transport” (falsified documents enabling exploiters to travel with illegal wood)
FCTV will be working with communities to address these concerns as part of its “Participatory FLEGT” project which seeks to both enable local communities to play a direct role in monitoring forest use and logging; as well as building networks and capacity of civil society at the national level so that civil society groups are better able to address the complicity that exists within the trade.