Gabon pushing for certified timber

Gabon Advanced Wood Sarl (GAW) is a company in Gabon which holds a timber concession. It recently obtained a new Forest Stewardship Council™ forest management certificate for its Ogooué concession in the south of Gabon, located in the Haut Ogooué and Ogooué Lolo provinces.

The company’s operations are located in the town of Moanda and supply certified logs to processing industries established in the Nkok Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a 1126 ha multi-sectoral industrial park located 27 km from Libreville. It includes industrial, commercial and residential zones. In its entirety, it brings together 144 companies from 19 countries operating in 22 industrial sectors, including a cluster of 84 companies dedicated to wood processing. (https://www.gsez.com/).

The Ogooué concession covers 179 861 hectares of forests, including 25 996 hectares of strictly conservation area. The concession includes about 309 inventoried tree species and iconic and threatened mammalian species such as elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas.

This is the first FSC forest management certificate in Gabon since 2014 and an important milestone for Gabon's ambition to have all their forest concessions certified by 2025. With this certificate, the total area of natural forest responsibly managed in Gabon under FSC certification reaches 2 241 051 hectares.
There are now more than 5.5 million hectares of FSC certified forest in three countries of the Congo Basin: Cameroon (341 708 ha), Gabon (2 241 051 ha) and the Republic of Congo (2 989 168 ha).

Covered 85% by forest, on 22 million hectares, Gabon has a stock of exploitable wood of 130 million m3 of Okoumé and 270 million m3 of other species. GSEZ has enabled the country to develop and modernise a wood sector that was previously not very promising by relying on specialisation, one-stop services and alignment with the national development strategy. With 3.4 million m3 produced each year, Gabon has become Africa’s leading producer and exporter of tropical plywood, and the world’s second largest exporter. The country intends to go further in adding value to its wood products by transforming GSEZ into a centre for the manufacture of "Made in Gabon" furniture by 2025.

Faced with growing demand, GSEZ has made sustainability, traceability and certification of wood sourced in Gabon and processed at its facilities one of its priorities. All of Gabon’s forest concessions are operated according to the sustainable forest management practices prescribed by the Gabonese Forest Code. In terms of traceability, since October 2018, GSEZ has benefited from the services of the Tracer-Nkok agency, which filters the logs entering the zone in order to limit the risk of illegal timber as much as possible. By 2022, all the country’s forest concessions will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and/or PEFC Gabon in order to improve the traceability of the wood and ensure respect for communities and workers.


Sustainable small-scale tree farming

Small-scale wattle growers in the Matimatolo area near Greytown in the KZN Midlands have developed their own unique ways of growing and harvesting their trees that is largely sustainable with minimal impacts on the environment. But the irony is that up until now they have been unable to get their small tree plantations certified by the global certification organisations because they have been unable to fulfil the complex administrative requirements and couldn’t afford it anyway.

With international markets increasingly demanding that the products they sell are derived from responsibly managed plantations that have been certified by recognised certification bodies, the market access of these small scale tree farmers is no longer assured. They are also missing out on the premium prices paid for certified timber products.

NTE, a local manufacturer of tannin products that are derived from the bark of wattle trees (Acacia mearnsii), has been working with the local wattle growers to help them improve their yields and to get certified through the newly established SAFAS system. SAFAS is geared specifically to South African conditions and is endorsed by PEFC, one of the globally recognised certification organisations.

This could turn out to be a game-changer for the small scale growers located in remote rural areas like Matimatolo where there is little infrastructure and very few job opportunities.

Watch the video here …