Thousands of African businesses that rely on forests, whether to sell timber, make furniture or produce charcoal, need more support to ensure that woods are sustainably sourced and their work leads to better market access.
That’s according to a new report from the Global Timber Forum (GTF) released in London on Monday.
The GTF conducted interviews with 21 wood industry associations in six African countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia and Mozambique. What they discovered was that more than 11,000 micro-businesses – defined as having 10 employees or less – were a part of these trade associations.
In fact, 85 percent of the industry group members come from these micro operations, and they are too often falling through the cracks in terms of legal access to logging, training in sustainable practices and other critical needs. While governments and international groups are doing a better job working with larger companies, there’s been less attention given to the smallest companies but it’s their work that adds up.
It’s also quite diverse. Mozambique, for example, is the largest African exporter of timber to China and relies heavily on its informal sector, while the DR Congo uses almost all of its product domestically.
“We already knew that many of the associations GTF has worked with are dominated by small and medium-sized companies but were surprised by the high levels of micro-sized operations,” said GTF director George White. “This represents a huge challenge for those who want to see the development of a more responsible trade.”
The research was completed between March and June 2018, in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Resources Institute. Funding also was provided by the European Union, and the British and Swedish governments.
Image: Prince Albert Foundation