FLEGT-VPA: What’s the role of SMEs in ECCAS forestry sector?
Douala (Cameroon) - From 10 to 11 April 2014, a subregional workshop on feedback and validation of the study on the challenges and needs of SMEs in the timber industry in relation to the VPA and EUTR was held by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) with technical support from the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), facilitated by the European Forest Institute (EFI) and the financial support of the European Union (EU) under the auspices of ECOFAC V.
The meeting mostly attracted officials from SMEs and VPA-FLEGT focal points of ECCAS countries, representatives of the DUE in Cameroon and NGOs (FODER and NEPCon) and had the following objectives:
♦ To discuss challenges facing SMEs in implementing the legal compliance requirements of the VPA and EUTR;
♦ Acknowledge difficulties highlighted by stakeholders and corollary measures recommended by recent fact-finding missions;
♦ Clarify the SMEs on the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market as per the EUTR.
The workshop format was based on presentations and discussions dealing with the following topics:
♦ ECCAS: Vision, missions, objectives related to the timber industry and SMEs;
• Regional FLEGT Unit: institutional anchoring, missions, activities;
♦Feedback on findings of the studyon the challenges and needs of SMEs in the timber industry in relation to the VPA and the EUTR as well as the Capacity Building Plan.
♦ Support opportunities for SMEs in Cameroon’s timber sector through FRED and NEPCon-led projects.
Following discussions and debates on these points punctuated by highly enriching moments of experience-sharing, the participants validated the study report and took note of the impediments to their development in a VPA-FLEGT dominated subregional context. They include:
♦ Poor access to resources;
♦ Limited access to financing;
♦ Low access to new markets and consolidation of traditional markets.
♦ heavy forest taxation in some countries of the sub-region;
♦ weak managerial capacity;
As they prioritized the SMEs’ challenges, the participants came up with recommendations addressed to ECCAS, the States, financial partners and SMEs / SMIs, which will help to safeguard the rights of SMEs in the ECCAS zone and to bring their priorities to the fore during VPA-FLEGT negotiations and implementation.
Following the meeting which was highly praised by the SME officials attending the workshop, a working group was established to track implementation of the recommendations in hopes of fostering the emergence of SMEs within the ECCAS region.
Details of the conduct of the workshop are available in the final communiqué which was signed by the following participants: Here