26 May 2008

Cameroon: Forest Exploiters Debunk Report on Illegal Logging

Trade union denounces marginalisation of local exploiters to the benefit of aliens.

The president of the Cameroon Forest Exploiters Trade Union, Nkodo Dang, last Friday, dismissed as unfounded the report by French Non Governmental Organisation, "Les amis de la terre" supported by a retired forest exploiter that logging in Cameroon is done with little or no respect of the law. The report, amplified by French press, has accused Cameroon of disrespecting the standards and quota in forest exploitation.

Talking at the Yaounde Hilton during a press conference organised to that effect, Nkodo Dang qualified the report as ill-intentioned and aimed at flushing Cameroonian exploiters out of the forest. "We wish to clarify the situation so that Cameroonians understand the stakes behind this report", he told pressmen. "Foreign exploiters, who presently control more than 600,000 hectares of the forest instead of 200,000 as prescribed by the Cameroonian law, want to elbow out Cameroonian exploiters from the forest", Nkodo Dang said.

The trade union boss questioned why Cameroonians who are the owners and custodians of the forest should control only 80,000 hectares. "How can one explain that out of 620 forest exploiters operating in Cameroon, 600 Cameroonian exploiters control only 8 per cent of the forest whereas 20 foreign exploiters control the rest of the forest", he wondered. Nkodo Dang stated that it is inconceivable that a Cameroonian wanting to bury his or her family member lacks even wood to make a coffin.

It was also with consternation that Nkodo Dang and his colleagues questioned the whole idea of forest certification which, though reserved for the Cameroonian government, has witnessed a gradual influence from foreign NGOs. The trade unionists are particularly irked by the fact that the said report has failed to carryout a comparative study of the situation and proceeded to mask the realities of the Cameroonian forest. To the retired exploiter, Nkodo Dang wondered why he could not make his report at the time he was on the field. In other words, he said, if the system is bad, then he must have contributed to it.

Cameroon, according to Nkodo Dang, has 22.5 million hectares of forest of several categories: equatorial forest, savannah forest, scrub and mangrove. But how come trouble comes in only when it concerns the exploitation of equatorial forest? This is the question, Nkodo Dang asked. Of the 600 tree species in Cameroon, he said, only 30 are exploited.

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