Training, Coordination, and Collaboration:
Helping Central African Countries Fight Illegal Logging

The International Police Organization (INTERPOL) estimates that 15% to 30% of all globally traded wood has been illegally harvested. Around the world, illegal logging is a leading cause of deforestation, and Central African forests, many of which contain highly desired exotic species and old growth trees, are exceedingly threatened by this illegal trade. Additionally, in this region an estimated 1.6 billion people live in or depend on these forests, and unregulated logging can directly threaten their livelihoods and communities.

Timber waiting for export at the port in Douala, Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Richard Paton.

In order to help countries better combat this illegal trade, the U.S. Forest Service International Programs in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice has facilitated a series of regional trainings on investigating, developing, and prosecuting illegal logging cases. Most recently, a training on combating illegal timber trafficking took place in Douala, Cameroon with more than 30 participants from different government agencies and civil society groups working in forest management, enforcement, customs, and the criminal justice system. This training follows on two regional trainings and a Cameroon-specific one, all funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

 U.S. Embassy Douala Branch Officer Sita Chakrawarti delivers a welcome address to participants of the workshop in Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Perri S. Rothemich.

At the training in Douala, participants were divided into investigation teams composed of a forestry agent, a prosecutor, a customs agent, and a police officer from different regions in the country, with the aim of facilitating coordination across different agencies within the country in developing and prosecuting cases on illegal logging. The training covered international and Cameroonian timber-related laws, field investigation techniques, wood identification training, technology, data, and web-based resources, UN Timber Investigation Guidelines, and planning and investigation strategies. During the workshop, participants also had the opportunity to discuss the current challenges they face in their daily work, and many shared ideas about how to improve timber legality, promote policy dialogues, and enact practical solutions for the industry. They were also able to visit the port and lumberyard in Douala, where they learned about timber export and import procedures and engaged in bilateral discussions with customs agents.

Participants pose for a group photo at the end of the training. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Dongo, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

Illegal logging and trade are complex issues, requiring high levels of coordination and communication across different government agencies. Trainings like these not only facilitate valuable connections and linkages for those involved in quelling illegal exports from the region, but also help further develop agents’ capacity to be able to better do their jobs. The U.S. Forest Service is committed to promoting a legal and sustainable timber trade in Central Africa, and will continue to support groups working to fight illegal wildlife and timber trafficking in the region.

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