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  • Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

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A woman carries wood in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Central African governments and their development partners account for a significant proportion of the region’s demand for domestic timber, mostly to meet infrastructure needs in sectors such as education, public works and healthcare. 

This demand is growing, as more development projects are implemented in the region. However, experts say that not enough attention is currently given to the legality of the wood used for development projects, resulting in countries missing out on a crucial opportunity to promote a sustainable, legal supply chain of timber for national consumption.

A recently published policy brief by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) discusses how, until now, the governments and international organizations in the region do not include a legality clause in their calls for tenders for public procurement.

“In the current state of affairs, the states and development actors are contributing indirectly to the informal and illegal practices that prevail in the timber sector in Central Africa,” says Richard Eba’a Atyi, lead author of the policy brief and director of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Central Africa hub. “The different actors in the public procurement supply chain are violating the countries’ commitments to processes such as the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and the 2008 Sub-Regional Agreement on Forest Control in Central Africa.”

In the policy brief Eba’a Atyi and the contributing authors call for a change in national public procurement policies across the region to enforce public purchases of timber exclusively from legal sources.

Read more: New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

MAKING CHANGE

Currently, public procurement of timber follows a certain sequence of events. National governments lead infrastructure projects, often with support from international donors, and award projects via public tender to national or international enterprises, which then carry out the construction work. Most of these companies source their wood from local urban markets supplied by small-scale loggers, who do not take into consideration resource renewal rates. The supply chain is thus informal – and essentially illegal – and is contributing to the deterioration and depletion of Central Africa’s forests.

International donors, in most of the cases, abide by national laws, meaning that here they do not have to ensure that wood is sourced legally for public procurement projects. While some enterprises and donors do have internal operating guidelines that recommend legally sourced timber in their projects, but most of the time these guidelines are not monitored and implemented.

A tree weeps sap after being cut down to produce charcoal in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Furthermore, certified or legally sourced wood is often difficult to obtain in Central Africa, either because the industry is not interested in low-profit national markets, or because of the incapacity to meet national demand.

However, attitudes are slowly changing, and governments and development actors are increasingly turning their eyes to the issue. “A few initiatives taken across Central Africa indicate that countries are prepared to promote legally sourced timber in public procurement,” says Guillaume Lescuyer, contributing author of the policy brief, and coordinator of CIFOR’s ESSOR project that aims to boost demand for legal wood in Cameroon.

“The Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), for example, has formed a working group on the issue and is now preparing a draft text on the promotion of legally sourced timber in government contracts.” The Cameroonian government’s demand for timber is calculated to be at least 13,000 cubic meters per year – an amount that can potentially have a very high impact for the betterment of the industry.

Read more: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

LEGAL EFFORTS

Other initiatives across the region can be found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “In Gabon in 2016, for instance, the Ministry of National Education sought to showcase the quality of Gabonese wood by purchasing 150,000 tables and benches of assumedly legal origin from the Gabon Wood Hub,” highlights Eba’a Atyi. “In the DRC, the Faculty of Sciences at Kisangani University recently sourced certified timber for a infrastructure project with financial support from the European Union.”

These individual initiatives, though relatively small on the regional scale, help create awareness about the issue and need to be encouraged and scaled-up in other countries, the experts say.

In order to require legally sourced wood in public contracts, the authors of the policy brief suggest three options to the national governments in the region. First, governments should make a political statement announcing their intention to promote the exclusive use of legally sourced wood in government contracts. Second, they should issue a legal act – a binding decree, for example, signed by a president or prime minister, or a joint order from national agencies involved in forestry resources management, public contracts and infrastructure – on wood legality in government procurement orders.

Men process wood at a company in Kisangani, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

And third, they should include a clause on the use of legally sourced timber in public contracting codes, so as to directly target the mandates of providers and suppliers.

Finally, regional cooperation, especially through the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), also offers an opportunity to push for changes in public procurement policies at the intergovernmental level.

“Considering the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the growing interest in promoting intra-African timber trade, it should be a priority for COMIFAC Member States to urgently prepare and adopt public procurement policies that impose and promote timber from legal sources,” says Eba’a Atyi.

And international partners, he says, should stand ready to help prepare these policies and apply them to their development support actions in Central Africa.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Guillaume Lescuyer at [email protected] or Richard Eba’a Atyi at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, CIRAD, Foret Ressources Management (FRM Ingenerie), and the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL).

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  • Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman carries wood in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Central African governments and their development partners account for a significant proportion of the region’s demand for domestic timber, mostly to meet infrastructure needs in sectors such as education, public works and healthcare. 

This demand is growing, as more development projects are implemented in the region. However, experts say that not enough attention is currently given to the legality of the wood used for development projects, resulting in countries missing out on a crucial opportunity to promote a sustainable, legal supply chain of timber for national consumption.

A recently published policy brief by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) discusses how, until now, the governments and international organizations in the region do not include a legality clause in their calls for tenders for public procurement.

“In the current state of affairs, the states and development actors are contributing indirectly to the informal and illegal practices that prevail in the timber sector in Central Africa,” says Richard Eba’a Atyi, lead author of the policy brief and director of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Central Africa hub. “The different actors in the public procurement supply chain are violating the countries’ commitments to processes such as the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and the 2008 Sub-Regional Agreement on Forest Control in Central Africa.”

In the policy brief Eba’a Atyi and the contributing authors call for a change in national public procurement policies across the region to enforce public purchases of timber exclusively from legal sources.

Read more: New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

MAKING CHANGE

Currently, public procurement of timber follows a certain sequence of events. National governments lead infrastructure projects, often with support from international donors, and award projects via public tender to national or international enterprises, which then carry out the construction work. Most of these companies source their wood from local urban markets supplied by small-scale loggers, who do not take into consideration resource renewal rates. The supply chain is thus informal – and essentially illegal – and is contributing to the deterioration and depletion of Central Africa’s forests.

International donors, in most of the cases, abide by national laws, meaning that here they do not have to ensure that wood is sourced legally for public procurement projects. While some enterprises and donors do have internal operating guidelines that recommend legally sourced timber in their projects, but most of the time these guidelines are not monitored and implemented.

A tree weeps sap after being cut down to produce charcoal in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Furthermore, certified or legally sourced wood is often difficult to obtain in Central Africa, either because the industry is not interested in low-profit national markets, or because of the incapacity to meet national demand.

However, attitudes are slowly changing, and governments and development actors are increasingly turning their eyes to the issue. “A few initiatives taken across Central Africa indicate that countries are prepared to promote legally sourced timber in public procurement,” says Guillaume Lescuyer, contributing author of the policy brief, and coordinator of CIFOR’s ESSOR project that aims to boost demand for legal wood in Cameroon.

“The Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), for example, has formed a working group on the issue and is now preparing a draft text on the promotion of legally sourced timber in government contracts.” The Cameroonian government’s demand for timber is calculated to be at least 13,000 cubic meters per year – an amount that can potentially have a very high impact for the betterment of the industry.

Read more: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

LEGAL EFFORTS

Other initiatives across the region can be found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “In Gabon in 2016, for instance, the Ministry of National Education sought to showcase the quality of Gabonese wood by purchasing 150,000 tables and benches of assumedly legal origin from the Gabon Wood Hub,” highlights Eba’a Atyi. “In the DRC, the Faculty of Sciences at Kisangani University recently sourced certified timber for a infrastructure project with financial support from the European Union.”

These individual initiatives, though relatively small on the regional scale, help create awareness about the issue and need to be encouraged and scaled-up in other countries, the experts say.

In order to require legally sourced wood in public contracts, the authors of the policy brief suggest three options to the national governments in the region. First, governments should make a political statement announcing their intention to promote the exclusive use of legally sourced wood in government contracts. Second, they should issue a legal act – a binding decree, for example, signed by a president or prime minister, or a joint order from national agencies involved in forestry resources management, public contracts and infrastructure – on wood legality in government procurement orders.

Men process wood at a company in Kisangani, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

And third, they should include a clause on the use of legally sourced timber in public contracting codes, so as to directly target the mandates of providers and suppliers.

Finally, regional cooperation, especially through the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), also offers an opportunity to push for changes in public procurement policies at the intergovernmental level.

“Considering the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the growing interest in promoting intra-African timber trade, it should be a priority for COMIFAC Member States to urgently prepare and adopt public procurement policies that impose and promote timber from legal sources,” says Eba’a Atyi.

And international partners, he says, should stand ready to help prepare these policies and apply them to their development support actions in Central Africa.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Guillaume Lescuyer at [email protected] or Richard Eba’a Atyi at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, CIRAD, Foret Ressources Management (FRM Ingenerie), and the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL).

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  • Local wood businesses find better global opportunities with sustainability certification

Local wood businesses find better global opportunities with sustainability certification

Women carve wood side by side. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR
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Sitting in Mbak Njum’s tiny office in the coastal Central Java town of Jepara, Indonesia, talk was of exports, trends in furniture styles, cargo containers and logistics.

“Business used to be much better, and Western Europe used to be my biggest market,” said Mbak Njum, who has had her business since 1997. She added that Indonesian customers now make up 10 percent of her sales. A whiteboard in her office noted where else her items were headed: Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia.

Jepara’s economy – almost completely dedicated to wood products – has experienced booms and busts over the decades. The 1998 Asian financial crisis actually opened up its export market, but 2008’s global economic collapse meant declines and a pivot to local buyers.

Scientist Herry Purnomo from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been working in the area for years, supporting the use of certified and legal wood and improved supply chains to benefit the town’s many small- and medium-scale enterprises, with research that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“Almost 30 percent of Jepara’s economy relies on furniture. If furniture disappears from Jepara, then the woodcarving culture will disappear too. Woodcraft carving and furniture-making are essential to Jepara and they need raw materials, and those raw materials are trees – specifically teak and mahogany,” he said.

Watch: Carving a niche in the global market: The woodworkers of Jepara

MOTLEY CREW

Just last year, Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system (SVLK) was the first in the world to be approved for the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license, which allows legal timber and timber products to smoothly enter Europe’s markets. With this license, people are hoping for a boon for Jepara’s small businesses.

To say that Jepara’s economic life is centered around wood and woodcrafts would be an understatement. The town’s streets are littered with scenes of logs being loaded onto and off of trucks, women carving intricate designs at roadside stalls, men cutting and measuring slabs of teak, and a motley assortment of furniture available for sale at shops both large and small.

Pak Tafrikhan owns one of those stores, complete with a workshop in the back where his furniture is made and sold to Jakartans, and people in Dubai and Taiwan. Like any true entrepreneur, he is passionate about his craft and a keen observer of trends.

“My father’s principle was, don’t be afraid to make things; they’ll always sell. I still remember that message, so I never hesitate to produce. They’ll definitely sell because furniture has an extraordinarily wide-ranging market share. It depends on which segment we direct it towards,” he said, gesturing to an intricately grained teak coffee table of his own design.

Jepara has definitely cornered the market in Indonesia, so now the question is certification and licenses to expand. Many in the town aren’t yet knowledgeable about how to get their products certified, or are avoiding the levels of bureaucracy involved.

“Is the SVLK beneficial in financial terms? Perhaps it hasn’t been yet. But if this can be done, at least it will change the furniture industry’s culture in Jepara,” small business owner Pak Trisno said as the sun set at his warehouse.

Read more: New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

Women carve wood side by side. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

PASSION PLAY

As a carved relief of the Beatles serenaded men wrapping coffee table tops and women prepping stools and chairs to be sent to Australia, a carving of Jesus laid hobbled on its side, waiting for the final touches of arms and a crucifix – and hopefully a church to purchase the finished piece.

Nur Hamidah, who had been carving a decorative wood piece together with a lively group of women along a small lane, said, “This is work we all have been familiar with since we were kids – this job is like our own family, it’s in our blood.”

Here, markets, certifications and international agreements are only the finishing touches to an industry based on tradition, passion and creativity.

“People have been using teakwood for centuries, and for hundreds of years it has sustained the lives of Jepara’s people. It’s given birth to many artisans; many great works. Carvings, reliefs and many things from these trees – from this teak – have been exported to many countries, and have made Jepara famous throughout the world,” Purnomo said.

Helping craftspeople out by giving them access to sustainable wood and markets is the next step, he added, and SVLK or FLEGT licensing can help with both.

“If we see these teak trees standing tall there is huge potential to preserve the furniture industry in Jepara. And on Java small-scale forestry is actually developing rapidly. Many people are planting trees because the industry is good on Java. We want this to continue so we can preserve Java’s forests with economic incentives,” Purnomo said.

Read more: Linking sustainable supply, inclusive business models and innovative finance

A woodworking student practices his craft at a workshop that doubles as a classroom. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

CRAFTY

In an interview at a CIFOR workshop on the topic, Inah Nuroniah, head of the Department of Industry and Commerce in Jepara, said, “Jepara now has approximately 1.2 million people, and the furniture industry is the central source of income. We’re now working together to look for ways in which the furniture industry can better support small enterprises now and into the future.”

As Pak Tafrikhan put it, “Jepara must return to its earlier creativity,” as well as utilizing the wisdom of people centuries before who planted vast forests of teak with specific knowledge of the best land to allow the trees to flourish.

“We really hope this business community can always be creative and innovative together. So we’re not left behind by other regions or other competitors, because we’re now in the era of globalization; there’s Vietnam, there’s China; maybe there are other countries too who are our competitors,” Nuroniah said.

“It’s these challenges that we must turn into opportunities; how we can improve performance into the future, improve quality, be more innovative, be more creative – together with the regional government we can do all of that,” she added.

Pak Trisno circled back to the forests themselves, the trees that are sustaining this unique corner of the world. “My long-term hope is for there to be wood so the timber, the raw materials can be renewed. So we should plant them as well – not just cut down and use trees.”

By Deanna Ramsay, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

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  • Carving a niche in the global market: The woodworkers of Jepara

Carving a niche in the global market: The woodworkers of Jepara

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Based on a long tradition of skilled family trade, the woodworking industry in Jepara, Indonesia, is branching out into global markets by investing in sustainable timber. With the national timber legality license now compatible with export licenses to the European Union, trade opportunities are expanding beyond borders. Scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) are finding the connections between sustainable supply chains and better business for local people.

Originally published by CIFOR.

This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • The costs and benefits of challenging the patriarchy for women charcoal producers in Zambia

The costs and benefits of challenging the patriarchy for women charcoal producers in Zambia

A smallholder in Nyimba district, Zambia, holds pieces of charcoal. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
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A smallholder in Nyimba district, Zambia, holds pieces of charcoal. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Women’s involvement in the traditionally male-dominated charcoal industry is increasing across Zambia.

Following an earlier story in which 27-year-old Mabvuto Zulu shared her experiences producing charcoal in Zuwalinyenga village in eastern Zambia, recent findings from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have shown that Mabvuto is far from being alone as a woman in charcoal production and trade.

While anyone visiting a charcoal market in Lusaka would be able to witness a good number of women working as traders and retailers, discussions conducted in the charcoal-producing districts of Choma and Monze in southern Zambia reveal that it has also become increasingly common for women to engage in stages of production. This can include everything from packaging charcoal to molding kilns, and even felling and cutting trees.

The increased involvement of women is attributed to an increase in demand (particularly boosted by load shedding arrangements in major cities) as well as a perceived increase in poverty in rural areas. Many women view charcoal production and trade as a viable business opportunity with low entry barriers. Trees growing on what is seen as ‘no-man’s land’, such as national forest reserves, are generally easy to access, and capital requirements for producing charcoal tend to be low.

At the same time, some women feel pushed into charcoal production due to poverty and a lack of viable alternative livelihood options. This is aggravated by fluctuating rainfall patterns, which negatively affect crop yields. Despite the viability of charcoal, most women and men still view farming, not charcoal production, as their primary source of livelihood.

When asked about how income from charcoal is spent, most respondents mention various one-off expenses, such as school fees or agricultural inputs. Others, particularly widowed or divorced women, emphasize the income security that charcoal can provide when crops fail. Charcoal income thus plays an important complementary – rather than competing – role with other income sources.

Watch: The State of Charcoal Production in Zambia

Mabvuto Zulu shows charcoal she produced. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

ON EQUAL FOOTING?

While more women are getting involved in charcoal production and trade, their level of involvement is often differentiated by marital status.

Unmarried, widowed or divorced women are involved throughout the production cycle, while most married women say they generally play a supportive role to their husbands, sticking to activities perceived as ‘more suitable for women’.

These kinds of jobs include packaging and selling charcoal, which are perceived as less physically demanding and easier to combine with childcare and other reproductive responsibilities.

Of the limited number of married women involved in production, many reported their husband’s illness or alcohol abuse as the reason for their engagement. Indeed, our discussions show that if a married woman is involved in charcoal production, others may perceive it as a sign of the husband being unable to provide for the family. This presents an additional potential entry barrier to married women, as women or their husbands may wish to avoid such social stigma.

While some charcoal is sold in local markets, many women opt to bring their products to urban markets, where they can receive higher prices. Both women and men seem to believe that women are more honest and responsible than their male counterparts, hence women are believed to make good traders. Many charcoal producers – both men and women – also prefer to sell their charcoal to female traders.

The physical nature of many activities associated with charcoal production certainly plays a role in shaping ideas of what is and isn’t suitable for women. Many female charcoal producers complain that the work is very strenuous. To manage, some women work in teams of six or more, while others rely on hired labor. While the employment opportunities are appreciated, particularly by younger men, such arrangements of course cut women’s profit margins.

Women’s reliance on male labor also makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Some women complain that the men they hire to help tend to use up the money before the job is done. Others reveal that some charcoal transporters request sexual favors as ‘in-kind payments’ if the women are unable to pay the demanded price for transporting the charcoal to urban markets.

Read also: Wood fuel in the climate pledges of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

CHANGING NORMS?

Should women’s entry into a traditionally male-dominated field be seen as a sign of changing gender norms? While most women report feeling pushed into charcoal production due to poverty, many are also proud to show that they can do what men do. Many married women also say that their involvement in charcoal production and trade has gained them more equal control over income.

In this sense, our findings seem to mirror the situation in Zambia’s Copperbelt, where growing economic insecurity is encouraging an increasing number of women to move into the mining sector. Findings from a recent study show that while many men historically opposed their wives going out to work, they are now applauding strong women who fend for their families and are doing what was previously seen as beyond their capabilities.

However, while most men report a general acceptance of women’s involvement in charcoal production due to the dire economic circumstances, they are not always happy about it. Some men complain that women who earn income from charcoal have become disrespectful to their husbands, while others bemoan that women now spend less time taking care of their families. Some also suspect that women are engaging in extramarital affairs when they are away from home in Lusaka selling charcoal. Women’s involvement in charcoal production and trade is thus seen as ‘home-wrecking’, and some women are said to have already lost their husbands over it.

A man extracts pieces of charcoal from wood that was buried in dirt and burned for two weeks. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

While charcoal production and trade offers women higher incomes, greater autonomy and a sense of pride, many women are also paying a high social price for upsetting a patriarchal system – this despite the fact that both women and men view women’s increased involvement primarily as an inevitable result of poverty!

To add to the irony, many women note that rampant charcoal production is resulting in a loss of fruit trees and trees good for caterpillar harvesting, both of which are important alternative income sources, particularly for female-headed households, according to another study.

FINDING A WAY FORWARD

So, what do the findings tell us? First, they caution against simplistic interpretations of women’s involvement in charcoal production as a sign of changed gender norms and women’s empowerment. By engaging in traditionally male-dominated activities and earning an independent income, women like Mabvuto are certainly challenging gendered divisions of labor. Hopefully, women’s entry into charcoal production can also contribute to the process of transforming unequal gender norms and power relations in rural Zambia.

However, this process is currently facing a strong patriarchal backlash in the form of exploitation and stigmatization of charcoal-producing women.

Second, and on a related point, policymakers who care about gendered impacts should be aware that policies and regulations that directly or indirectly increase production costs may disproportionately affect female producers, as they rely to a greater degree on hired labor and hence have lower profit margins. Such impacts may be particularly detrimental given that many female producers are widows or divorcees, and therefore the sole breadwinners of their households.

Third, our findings demonstrate a need for more intersectional approaches to unpacking the social dynamics of the charcoal value chain. The opportunities and challenges that women are facing are certainly structured by unequal gender norms and power relations. As we have seen, these are often intertwined with other social factors, such as age and marital status, and vary depending on one’s location along the value chain.

By Markus Ihalainen, Muzione Christina Mwale, Kaala Moombe and Davison Gumbo, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Markus Ihalainen at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

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  • Wood fuel in the climate pledges of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Wood fuel in the climate pledges of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

A man transports firewood via motorbike in East Africa. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A man transports firewood via motorbike in East Africa. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

Nearly every rural family in the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa relies on wood to cook, boil water, provide heat and often to build their homes. Even in many urban areas, wood is the only affordable energy source.

Since wood fuel is here to stay, at least for now, scientists from the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) wanted to find out how countries in the region prioritized this energy source as part of the climate actions they intend to take under the Paris Agreement.

Known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), these proposed action plans were drawn up before the accord was signed in 2015 and will help determine if the world can achieve the Paris goals. Since Paris, the ‘intended’ has been dropped and countries have submitted their final plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The CIFOR team, including scientists part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), examined how wood fuel was introduced, listed or framed in the NDCs; the existence or listing of renewable energy and energy efficiency plans; and the existence of supporting national policies and strategic documents.

“We looked at 22 randomly selected countries and their planned climate actions. Although wood fuel is mentioned in most plans, they don’t say how they intend to reach their targets or what the roadmaps, timelines and legal issues are,” says Christopher Martius, CIFOR scientist and team leader. “These plans are ambitious but they are mainly a declaration of intentions.”

The researchers found that even when plans were converted from INDCs to NDCs, just over half of the countries left out a budget or had any specific energy policies in their national planning strategies.

“It appears a lot of these countries rushed to get their [INDC] plans in place and they didn’t take the opportunity to revise them before they were automatically converted to NDCs. So they were basically a copy and paste exercise,” says Ivy Amugune, CIFOR research assistant.

One exception is Somalia, which revised and resubmitted its plan. It was also the only country to provide a detailed section on the environmental impact of charcoal. Somalia’s NDCs list renewable energy as one possible solution, but funding remains an issue.

Read more: Measuring the effectiveness of subnational REDD+ initiatives

Women gather firewood in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

THE COST OF GOING GREEN

Renewable energy sources — mainly wind, solar and hydropower — were mentioned as alternatives by 17 countries in their action plans but implementing this strategy may not be so easy.

“Biofuels and solar energy projects have been introduced in some rural areas, but they come with a price, especially in remote areas,” says Amugune. “The problem is that setting up these systems and maintaining them costs money. Wood fuel is cheap — in fact, for most people, it is actually free.”

But rapid deforestation in many countries is making it more and more difficult for communities to harvest wood fuel.

“In Kenya, for example, you find people in rural areas have to walk for miles now to get wood and water. Changes in rainfall are occurring due to climate change. The land dries out and then suddenly there is flooding. It destroys everything and people have to start again from zero,” says Amugune.

So how can communities continue to access wood fuel without harming the environment and contributing to climate change?

The researchers looked into the question but found that few countries have evaluated this aspect, even though wood fuel has the potential to be a clean and sustainable resource. Martius says the key is good forest management.

“If you have a rotation-based strategy with communities reforesting areas and then harvesting specific areas at alternate times wood fuel can be sustainable,” he says.

This rotation system can help restore the rapidly disappearing landscapes, researchers say. “But we need more research into tree species as well as a lot of planning and control to make that happen,” says Martius.

Read more: An introduction to CIFOR’s global comparative study on REDD+ (GCS-REDD+)

PROTECT AND RESTORE

Reforestation and the restoration of ecosystems are key elements to meeting the Paris goals. Forests that are legally protected can provide a positive “carbon sink,” which absorbs more carbon than it emits into the atmosphere.

Scientists say these areas need to be protected from firewood extraction and illegal logging. But only five of the countries examined seemed to recognize the importance of this in their NDCs.

Amugune says communities need to have a good reason to restore degraded landscapes. She points to Uganda where rural communities tend to plant fast-growing species like cyprus and eucalyptus, which can be harvested and sold in a few years.

“These communities need concrete incentives to grow indigenous trees to help restore degraded ecosystems and that requires government policies and good reforestation programs,” she says.

A man stacks wood in Africa. Photo by Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

BOTTOM UP, TOP DOWN

Amugune says a real solution involves empowering communities. If they are given the responsibility for their own future then there is a real chance to achieve sustainability.

“I’ve seen NGOs or governments come with a great offer for a community and it’s a good project, but once it ends, the work on the ground dies. We have to find ways that these projects can have a life of their own even after a project ends. That’s the only way they can transform,” she says.

She adds that the research points to more regional cooperation, as many of the countries have the same problem and together they can find joint solutions.

Martius notes that the Paris accord has brought people together from developing and developed countries and from diverse backgrounds, and that means a real debate over solutions to climate change has begun.

“But we need to continue to engage with people, not just hand over reports or studies,” he says. “Above all, we need the right policies and enforcement of those policies. It’s not easy, but if you take a few years to develop and implement the right policy, then you don’t need to worry about the next 100 years.”

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Women woodworkers – the Jepara story

Women woodworkers – the Jepara story

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The town of Jepara on the coast of Central Java is home to thousands of small and medium-scale furniture and woodworking enterprises. Women play an essential role in the industry, mostly working as sanders and doing the final touches on furniture ready for delivery. But they have other roles as well, and their relationship to work, to the industry, to wood and to craftsmanship is another story – told here by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Small flame but no fire: Wood fuel in the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Small flame but no fire: Wood fuel in the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Woodfuel is extremely important for energy security in Africa. About eighty percent of both rural and urban populations in the 49 countries that comprise South-Saharan (SSA) Africa rely on wood-based biomass to satisfy their energy needs, especially for cooking. Under the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, countries have submitted their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) to the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), to define their national ambitions. After Paris, these have now become legally binding NDCs. Therefore, the role that woodfuel plays in the NDCs of SSA countries needs to be assessed.

We reviewed and assessed INDC/NDCs of a selection of SSA countries to identify how they focus on wood fuel. This paper provides a first analysis of the role that wood fuels play in the NDCs. Only five of the 22 countries analyzed do not mention wood fuels at all. While all of those that do mention roadmaps, only just over half of them offer budgetary considerations, and about half of them identify institutional responsibilities for the woodfuel sector. In many NDCs, woodfuel is seen as a backwater technology, and not the renewable energy source it could be come if sustainably harvested and managed. We find that, overall, next iterations of the NDCs in SSA countries need to become more specific regarding the role of woodfuels in national climate and development policies.

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  • Impact of biogas interventions on forest biomass and regeneration in southern India

Impact of biogas interventions on forest biomass and regeneration in southern India

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Abstract

Programs to provide alternative energy sources such as biogas improve indoor air quality and potentially reduce pressure on forests from fuelwood collection. This study tests whether biogas intervention is associated with higher forest biomass and forest regeneration in degraded forests in Chikkaballapur district in Southern India. Using propensity score matching, we find that forest plots in proximity to villages with biogas interventions (treatment) had greater forest biomass than comparable plots around villages without biogas (control). We also found significantly higher sapling abundance and diversity in treatment than control plots despite no significant difference in seedling abundances and diversity in treatment forests, suggesting that plants have a higher probability of reaching sapling stage. These results indicate the potential for alternative energy sources that reduce dependence on fuelwood to promote regeneration of degraded forests. However, forest regrowth is not uniform across treatments and is limited by soil nutrients and biased towards species that are light demanding, fire-resistant and can thrive in poor soil conditions.

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  • New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR
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Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR

Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing is like an anak sholeh — a good and pious child — according to several speakers at a recent national policy dialogue held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

From forests to workshops, marketplaces and homes, Indonesia’s timber products form a long and complex supply chain, which FLEGT is helping to regulate and strengthen.

The country’s timber exports are valued at US$11 billion annually. Thanks to its timber legality verification system known as SVLK and the subsequent issuance of FLEGT, with which businesses can export timber and wood products to the European Union with greater ease, the government expects furniture exports to increase significantly.

Indonesia is the only country in the world to have implemented the licensing so far, giving its furniture a competitive advantage in an increasingly discerning market as consumers pay more attention to the issues of a green environment, illegal logging, deforestation and sustainable production.

Watch: Policy dialogue: CIFOR cohosts FLEGT talks in Jakarta

Speakers pose with tokens of appreciation made from SVLK-certified wood following one of the sessions at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

However, issues remain in the widespread implementation of FLEGT in Indonesia, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The recent policy dialogue, cohosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) on July 13, tackled the topic of FLEGT licensing and supporting SMEs to access global markets.

The dialogue brought together scientists, government representatives, local furniture producers and community leaders to discuss challenges for SMEs to meet FLEGT requirements; a strategy to maximize the impacts of the license on SMEs; and the role of province and district governments to ensure the legality of SME production.

Read more: Indonesia’s timber going green – and global

Ida Bagus Putera Parthama, Director General of Sustainable Forest Management at Indonesia’s Forestry and Environment Ministry, said the initiative stemmed from an effort to eliminate illegal logging, and a desire to “stop the stigma attached to Indonesia about illegal wood.”

He described the license as “a good boy that the whole country has been waiting for” and said “everyone should support it.”

“The final outcome we expect from the system is to increase our market share, competitiveness of products, revenue for communities and in the end improve the livelihoods of those involved,” Parthama explained.

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, speaks at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, concurred. “The world is looking to Indonesia,” he said. “Anak sholeh is a role model; everybody likes him [and] wants to adopt him.”

However, some business people voiced concerns. Jepara Small-Scale Furniture Producers Association (APKJ) representative Sulthon Muhamad Amin said that while medium and large companies may not be lumbered with the requirements, the costs associated with the licensing were too onerous for small-scale workshops. Thus, some still preferred to partner with exporters in the local market rather than become exporters themselves.

Sulthon later said small businesses must change this mindset. However, he questioned how this could happen, stating that many small-scale businesses had never heard of FLEGT.

Despite dissemination efforts, local administrations must be more proactive in providing assistance to small businesses, Sulthon said. “If an SME is like a small boy being led by a mother, it doesn’t mean he can be given the information and then left alone.”

Read more: Brexit rattles Indonesia’s timber trade prospects with Europe

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR speaks at the National Policy Dialogue. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR, whose work looks at furniture value chains, said SLVK promoted a balance between economic progress and environmental conservation. The system was not only driven by the EU’s system, he explained, as advancing people’s economies through participation and in an environmentally friendly manner was also mandated by the country’s Constitution.

In line with this, sustainable value chains and investments to support forest conservation and equitable development are a key part of FTA’s work.

Purnomo also echoed Sulthon’s thoughts, saying small-scale businesses faced different issues to big companies. Thus, local administrations should be more active in maximizing the benefits of FLEGT licenses for SMEs.

“We should also think about the domestic market, not only about the EU market,” Purnomo added. “Maybe we need to use SVLK more in domestic procurement processes.”

Taking note of Indonesia’s status as the first country to have FLEGT licenses, the scientist said environmental awareness would continue to grow, including in other emerging markets across the region such as Korea and Singapore. “Later it will be very difficult for us to catch up.”

For business people, exporters and consumers, FLEGT is a new kid on the block worth getting to know.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

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This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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