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Exploitation of Forests, Cameroon


Timber exploitation in Cameroon was begun by German colonizers, and grew rapidly after the Second World War. In the 1990s timber export reached its peak. In 2002 annual production was around 2 million cubic metres over a surface area of some 300,000 hectares. The average price of the timber fluctuated around 150 per cubic metre, and was destined for the luxury goods market due to its high quality. The weakness of State controls on the timber trade meant that exporting was problem free. If from the start of the 1900s deforestation was totally unchecked, and was interested only in felling as many trees in the least time possible, today the exploitation of forests is targeting only the most expensive. Six varieties account for nearly 80 percent of timber exploitation: The Ayous (Triplochition scleroxylon), Sapele or Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum), Azob (Lophira alata), Limba or yellow pine (Terminalia superba), Tali (Erythrophleum ivorense) and Iroko (Chlorophora spp.). Another particularly exploited species for its economic value is the Moabi (Baillonella toxisperma), which is a vitally important tree to women forest dwellers due to its versatility in providing medicines, and other subsistence goods. It is also a sacred tree.

From the days of colonization until now almost all the timber felled in Cameroon has been exported to Europe. The main importing nations between 2000 and 2005 were France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Between 1990 and 2005, Cameroon lost 13.4% of its forest cover or around 3,300,000 hectares [1]. A report from the European Union released in 2015 denounces the many irregularities of timber industry in Cameroon. None of the companies operating in the country have gathered all the documentation necessary to be operating in Cameroon rainforest [2]. For instance, two French timber multinationals, Rougier and Pallisco respetively own 625 253 ha et 388 949 ha whereas according to Cameroon law forest properties cannot exceed 200 000 ha. Both companies, has many other operating in Cameroon, have been granted FSC certification which questions the accuracy of such labelling.

Cameroon's tropical forest is home to a great diversity of ecosystems that are critically threatened by the timber exploiting industry and transport and processing infrastructure that goes with it. Even the removal of just a small number of tree species causes severe disruptions to the affected ecosystems. Another side effect of forest exploitation has been the development of a large-scale trade in bushmeat. While this environmental destruction is a loss for all mankind, the first to suffer are the local communities of indigenous Bantus and Pygmies. Both depend on the forests ecology, not only for their food but also for the collection of raw materials, the production of natural medicines, and the key role that the forest plays in maintaining traditional practices and cultures. The loss of their territorial sovereignty affected and diminished access to these resources, causing an increase in poverty, not just monetary but in terms of the satisfaction of basic needs such as food, territorial and socio-cultural sovereignty. These fundamental human rights are threatened by the serious changes provoked by the development of forestry exploitation.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Exploitation of Forests, Cameroon
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Land
Biological resources

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1950
Company names or state enterprises:Patrice Bois from Italy
Fipcam from Italy
Thanry/Vicwood from China
Pasquet from France
Rougier from France
Pallisco from Cameroon
Relevant government actors:Government of Cameroon, MINEF: Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Cameroon, European Union, French Government
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
International Monetary Fund (FMI)
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of the Earth (Cameroon), Greenpeace - Belgium & International, Planet Survey - Camroon, Centre for Environment and Development (CED) - Cameroon

Conflict and Mobilization

Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
2003: The residents of Klampeing move their residencies to the three neighbouring villages of Eden, Andoo and Assadam, with the goal of creating a forest community with the official title of ICM COBA (Assimilated Community of Badjou and other interest groups)

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsPotential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
January 2002: The Forest Ministry (MINEF) accuses the company Patrice Bois of unauthorised timber exploitation, and subjects them to a fine of 10 million CFA Francs (15,000 Euros).
January 2003: The Forestry Ministry (MINEF) once again fines the company Patrice Bois, this time it is 50 million CFA Francs (75,000 Euros), for complicity in unauthorised exploitation of the forests. However, due to procedural errors by the Ministry the charge is altered and only a small fine is made. The company are still condemned for breach of forest law.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:On paper, the State owns the forests, but the sovereignty it exercises on the exploitation of timber is in many ways limited by the influence of multinational companies. The national government wants to attract more and more private foreign investment at all costs, even if is basically illegal. This framework allows corporations to disregard the environmental and social standards, particularly with regard to contracts, and the extent and location of concessions. The States monitoring and decision making capability is limited both by the endemic corruption, and internal political policies that have led to a drastic reduction in staff and their salaries.

Sources and Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Forestry and Communities in Camerooon, CEECEC Case-study, 2010

Africa, forest under threat, World Rainforest Movement. 2002.

Gerber J.F., Resistance contre deux geants industriels en foret tropicale, populations locales versus plantations commerciales d'hévéas et de palmiers a huile dans le Sud Cameroun, Mouvement Mondial pour les Forets Tropicales, 2008.

Auzel, P., Fomete, T., Odi, J., Owada, J.-C. 2002. Evolution de l'exploitation des forets du Cameroun: production nationale, exploitation illegale, perspectives, Presentation reunion DFID, MINEF, Banque Mondiale et FMI, 2002, Yaounde.

Global Witness : Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM), 2000-2005

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Illegal logging in Cameroon, F. Verbelen, Greenpeace, Belgium, March 2000

Rapport d'Analyse des données du SIGIF de l’exercice 2002/2003

Illegal logging in Cameroon: How French Government action is fuelling rainforest destruction, Greenpeace, 2005

Chainsaw criminal Wijma, Greenpeace, April 2003

Bantu Peoples

Pygmy Peoples

[1] Cameroon Statistics by

The 'Pygmies', Survival International

Cameroon: Bagyeli struggling to be heard, World Rainforest Movement, 2002

Southeast Cameroon, a story of land theft, Survival International

[2] #Cameroun / L'impossible vérification des documents légaux liés aux permis d’exploitation des entreprises forestières, F/ Pigeaud, Gri-Gri International / Mediapart, 2/09/2015

Other documents

Rainforest logging in Cameroon, 1999 Greenpeace / Steve Morgan

Baka community (Pygmies) against the new National Park Boumba Bek National Park, overlapping their lands, 2006 Foret Peoples Programme

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update29/01/2016



Rainforest logging in Cameroon, 1999

Greenpeace / Steve Morgan

Baka community (Pygmies) against the new National Park Boumba Bek National Park, overlapping their lands, 2006

Foret Peoples Programme