The Timber Trade Portal (TTP) is an answer to the numerous questions timber traders have when it comes to legal timber trade, due diligence, country requirements and export. It serves as a central information point, with country profiles on both timber industry and legislation of producer countries, mainly located in tropical Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for vulnerable communities across West Africa” - FAO
In this interview, we speak with Coumba Sow, FAO Resilience Coordinator for West Africa, about the COVID-19 pandemic and what it could mean for millions of people already grappling with hunger and conflict in West Africa.
West Africa and the Sahel region in particular have long been prone to droughts and food shortages, and over the past decade, rising insecurity. How is the situation now?
This is a complex region - hit by chronic hunger, insecurity, climate change, the threats of a Desert Locust outbreak, and now the pandemic. Year after year, five out of the ten countries at the bottom of the UN Development Index are in West Africa.
Right now, we are particularly concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Central Sahel - comprised of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Some four million people here are already facing extreme hunger and this could rise to 5.5 million people by August. Just to put it in perspective - by August, in Burkina Faso, over two million people could be facing extreme hunger, and at the worst time - as the lean season sets in and food becomes scarcer. This number is three times higher than last year during the same period.
Across West Africa, as of April, over 11 million people need immediate food assistance - mostly due to conflict. And this number will continue rising, potentially reaching 17 million during the lean season (June- August) if we don't respond fast.
Many people are not only hungry. They are also uprooted and have lost what they had. The ones I spoke to had the same story - of villages attacked; of family members killed or displaced; of homes or fields destroyed; of animals abandoned or killed.
As of now, some 1.2 million people have been displaced in Central Sahel. If the conflict persists, more people will suffer the same fate.
According to the 2020 Global Food Crisis report, increasing violence, displacements and disrupted agriculture and trade in tandem with adverse climate in West Africa and Sahel countries will worsen acute food insecurity conditions in many areas this year.
COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for vulnerable communities across West Africa.
Who is most at risk from COVID-19?
First of all: children. Malnutrition rates in the Sahel are one of the highest in the world. Some 2.5 million children - more than a quarter in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger - suffer from severe and acute malnutrition.
As mothers and children are the hardest hit, in general, they will also suffer the most during the pandemic.
Those who are already hungry, or already hungry and displaced, will be at extreme risk.
The key issue to highlight is that the pandemic is expanding during crucial months for this region - when people need to plant, move with their animals. Farmers need to be able to sell their current produces but also access fields and markets to prepare for the main 2020/2021 agricultural season. Pastoralists or nomadic herders need to move with their animals. Governments and humanitarian actors need to assist people requiring urgent food, nutritional and emergency support during the lean season.
For centuries, nomadic herders across the Sahel have moved hundreds of miles every year to find pasture for their herds. This is something they do each year, especially during April-May as pastures become drier.
Many Mauritanian herders, for example, head to Mali and Senegal in search of pasture.
But, as borders close, nomadic herders are no longer able to move in search of fodder and water or to trade - animals can be traded for other foods or essential items.
This can lead to herders losing their income as they can't sell their animals or buy what they need for them as well as potentially losing animals as some of them might not survive or might fall ill. When animals suffer, people suffer. When animals die or stop being a source of milk or meat, people go hungry. When animals are lost, so are people's livelihoods.
Farmers will also be affected by COVID-19 due to a lower supply of fertilizers and seeds, the closure of stores and markets, and reduced assistance.
The pandemic - if it spreads further - will translate into increasing threats: from more displacements to less and less access to basic social services, higher food prices, less food.
Are COVID-19's impacts on people's food security already being felt in West Africa?
Governments have taken measures such as physical distancing and closure of markets. These will result in market disruptions, whether for traders or buyers.
COVID-19's impacts are already seen in the pastoral areas. As most borders are closed, movements of herders and animals have been restricted.
Although the pandemic's impact on primary products' prices are not yet discernible, the fact that many people are buying main commodities in bulk could lead to a temporary increase in costs and shortages, which will be difficult to manage as/if production drops. Transport is also already affected, which will impact on food and products' supply.
How is FAO responding?
As most of West Africa is already affected by other complex crises, our first priority is to safeguard and maintain our current emergency response, especially activities supporting the upcoming agricultural campaign, which will help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on food security.
Doing so will be particularly challenging given the operational difficulties due to the movement restrictions introduced by most countries. However, working closely with governments, the UN family, and partners, we are recalibrating and finding ways to deliver.
Our response across the region is only funded at 20 percent, however. We urge donors and partners to ensure that the ongoing emergencies, on top of COVID-19, are not forgotten.
In response to COVID-19, FAO has been collecting information and carrying out analysis, at regional and country level, on the pandemic's likely consequences on agriculture and food security, which will feed into a global data facility. This is informing the development of national and a regional strategies as well as country specific COVID-19 preparedness and response plans. Several actions in these plans are already being implemented.
In Burkina Faso, FAO is launching a program, thanks to support from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to provide immediate assistance to vulnerable households living in quarantine in urban and peri-urban areas so they can access healthy and nutritious food.
Read : Introducing our Climate Ambition Accelerator; Earth Day Summit in Ukraine; Nature-based approaches to water stewardship; UN global compact leaders’ summit 15–16 june 2021…
An international study coordinated by researchers from IRD and CIRAD reveals the composition of the tropical forests of Central Africa and their vulnerability to the increased pressure from climate change and human activity expected in the coming decades.
The report makes 22 recommendations for governments and stakeholders. For example, it recommends that governments link fiscal incentives to independent third-party certification. One approach explored is a “bonus–malus” mechanism in which a lower tax rate for certified operations (the “bonus”) is funded, at least partly, by the increased rate for uncertified products (the “malus”).
Raising the bar: Strengthening EU biodiversity and climate leadership through FLEGT and Forest Partnerships - FERN
This statement summarises the views of civil society organisations (CSOs) from Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, Europe, and West and Central Africa. These organisations help address the key challenges threatening forests around the world, including the ongoing trade in illegal timber and commodity-driven deforestation, by proposing lasting solutions that work for people and the planet. If the EU follows these recommendations, it will help to strengthen forest governance, and protect and restore forests globally...
The commitment of the EU and Germany (through KfW and GIZ) to Cameroon requires the implementation of the most effective instruments. The 2nd generation Forest Information Management System (SIGIF2), developed in Cameroon since 2015, should have been a crucial step in the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA FLEGT), an international agreement signed 11 years ago between the EU and Cameroon, on the instruction of the Head of State, and ratified by the European and Cameroonian parliaments.
A WWF study points out the responsibility of the European Union in the degradation of tropical forests
This report is a good opportunity to recall the relevance of the sustainable forest management model to preserve forest resources in tropical countries. On the one hand, the use of certified tropical timber gives an economic value to the forest : when timber is a source of income, producing countries are less inclined to convert forest areas into agricultural land. However, to preserve ecosystems, timber imported by the EU must be produced under the principles not only of legality but also of sustainable forest management certification.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is pleased to announce its 2021 African Elephant Conservation Fund Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). The proposal submission deadline is 11:59 PM ET, June 25, 2021.
There is a long history of academic works and debates on the influence of forest taxes level and structure on forest industry behavior and its impact on sustainable forest management. From these debates, many would argue that forest taxation, used as indirect incentives, does not have a significant potential to change management practices, compared to appropriate regulatory mixes and law enforcement.
Read : Central African forests vulnerable to global change; A WWF study points out the responsibility of the European Union in the degradation of tropical forests; A new statutory team for COMIFAC…
On 13 April 2021, The Federal Republic of Germany Facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), Honorable Dr. Christian Ruck, and several international and regional NGOs, including Centre for International Development and Training, Fern, Foder and World Resources Institutes, met virtually to discuss the threats facing forests in Central Africa.
For Fern’s civil society partners in several tropical forest countries, most of the past decade’s improvements in forest governance have been wrested from a reluctant timber sector by the pioneering Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) programme. FLEGT’s insistence on transparency and on prising open decision-making processes previously off limits to civil society organisations (CSOs) has catalysed change, making possible whatever measure of accountability now exists.
President Biden Invites 40 World Leaders to Leaders’ Summit on Climate – President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the DRC and President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon to attend
Today, President Biden invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate he will host on April 22 and 23. The virtual Leaders’ Summit will be live streamed for public viewing.
Brazil says it should receive $10 billion a year in foreign aid, including $1 billion for forests, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, instead of 2060 as currently planned. What about the forest ecosystems of the Congo Basin?
As replacements for outgoing statutory executives, the Extraordinary Council of COMIFAC Ministers have tapped the following as the new statutory executives: Executive Secretary: Mr. Hervé Martial MAIDOU from the Central African Republic; Deputy Executive Secretary-Technical Coordinator: Mr. Chouaibou NCHOUTPOUEN from the Republic of Cameroon; Administrative and Financial Director: Mr. François DAYANG from the Republic of Chad.
Climate crisis and the Congo Basin: The planet’s future may ride on President Tshisekedi’s grip on the DRC – dailymaverick
The Congo Basin’s forests and peatlands are a major component of Earth’s life-support systems, and it is a key supplier of vital minerals needed to build a low carbon economy. The case for the people of the Congo to benefit from not exploiting these resources is irrefutable.
As part of the ECOFAC 6 capitalization program, and in order to help improve the sharing of information between researchers, policy makers and protected area managers in central Africa, we propose that you answer a questionnaire on the usefulness of research for conservation.
The JRS Biodiversity Foundation is pleased to announce Matthew Cassetta as its new Executive Director. Cassetta brings over two decades of diverse experience in international diplomacy and project management, much of it focused in Africa on capacity-building and development partnerships.
Wildlife: during the month of March, the UICN publicly announced two decisions concerning forest elephants. The first one was declaring the forest elephant (Loxodonta Cyclotis) an altogether different species, as until recently it was merely considered a subspecies. The second decision was declaring this species critically endangered.
To benefit people, biodiversity and the climate, EU development programmes must heed local voices – Fern
The EU is the world’s largest aid donor and a major political actor with a strong influence over global policies. The EU recognises civil society as an essential actor in policy making and implementation, specifically in the development sector.
To read: The German CBFP Facilitation and COMIFAC are preparing for the 2021 Climate and Biodiversity Conferences of the Parties; Report on landmark deforestation events in 2019; The 2021-2025 Operational Plan of COMIFAC Convergence Plan validated...
March 2021 Highlights: Rescued 1 Black-bellied pangolin; Released 1 Black-bellied pangolin back into the wild; Released 19 African grey parrots into the wild; Finished maintenance of Gorilla group 1 night den; Completed phase 1 of the Gorilla re-enrichment project…
Read: Position of European Partners on SIGIF 2 in Cameroon; Only few days left to register for the webinars "The Role of Forest Certification in the EUTR"; ATIBT technical data sheet : quality of plantation species for timber use; "Choosing tropical woods to fight climate change" says Timber Trade Federation...
Forest Watch The latest forest news April 2021: Discarding a decade of effort developing FLEGT licenses or ignoring key land rights in EC proposals to fight deforestation won't keep forests standing
Read: FLEGT ‘Fitness Check’: Abandoning FLEGT licenses would harm forest governance and the legal timber trade; EU Law on deforestation: Key land rights risk being ignored in DG Environment’s proposal; Could the palm oil arrangement between Indonesia and Switzerland offer lessons for EU and Indonesia free trade agreement negotiations?
The co-facilitators for the negotiated outcome of the 2021 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development have issued an outline for consideration. The proposed structure includes sections on: the impact of COVID-19 on the 2030 Agenda; progress towards the SDGs under review in 2021; and accelerated actions to achieve the SDGs.
The International Renewable Energy (IRENA) has published a preview of its publication, ‘World Energy Transitions Outlook.’ The report reviews technology choices, investment needs, and socio-economic contexts necessary to set the world on a trajectory towards a sustainable, resilient and inclusive energy future.
The German CBFP Facilitation and COMIFAC are preparing for the 2021 Climate and Biodiversity Conferences of the Parties
From 9 to 13 March the COMIFAC Working Group meetings of the Central African Climate and Biodiversity Negotiators took place in Douala, Cameroon. These two meetings were held at the same time and place, with financial support provided by the German cooperation.
This publication adds to ongoing work by the World Bank Group on how to better design and incorporate fiscal policy within the climate and sustainable development policy mix. The publication shows how various fiscal reforms can positively influence forest conservation while freeing up resources that can be used for national development.
Environmental issues affect us all. As is it, the planet is moving towards a global warming of 3°C by 2100. This is not the future we want. Forests, our first carbon sink within submerged land, are however in critical danger, with the possible savannahisation of the Amazon and tropical forests that could eventually turn into proper CO2 emitters. Faced with these projections, that involve unimaginable socio-economic consequences, our absolute priority can be summed up in a single word: reduction. Reducing our carbon footprint. Reducing deforestation. Reducing the degradation of forests. Reducing them increasingly and continuously.
The world is facing unprecedented economic and environmental challenges. While climate change increasingly poses risks to macroeconomic and fiscal stability, deforestation and forest degradation impair the ability of forests to act as carbon sinks and reduce the resiliency of local communities to climate damages. The loss and decay of forests also threaten global biodiversity, the provision of ecosystem services, and other core ecological functions that economies worldwide rely on.
Fern’s report Beyond commitments: How can Nationally Determined Contributions contribute to forest governance and resilient local communities? looks at progress, challenges, and opportunities in six African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, and Republic of the Congo.
The undeniable connection between nature, human health, and economic well-being has become more evident than ever during this time of crisis. Resilience is in our nature: IUCN and its Members are working to ensure a nature-based recovery that can deliver sustainable solutions, providing a foundation for a healthier relationship between humanity and the planet.
As indicated on the Fordaq website, Hans Fahrni, CEO of FACO Construction, is pleased with the effects of the log export ban on the timber industry in Gabon, where the majority of the forest area is FSC-certified (the government's goal is to certify all of them within 4 years).
The ATIBT and the Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) have recently held several online meetings to clarify their common issues for the development of a responsible tropical timber sector. These meetings have been preceded in recent years by annual meetings.
REN21’s Renewables in Cities Global Status Report (REC) series provides an overview of the status, trends and developments of renewable energy in cities, using the most up-to-date information and data available. The REC’s neutral, fact-based approach documents in detail the annual developments in policies, markets, investments and citizen action, with a particular focus on renewables in public, residential and commercial buildings as well as public and private urban transport. This report aims to inform decision makers and to create an active exchange of views and information around urban renewable energy.