Transparency of information along the timber supply chain is a fundamental prerequisite for combatting illegal logging and improving forest management in the Congo Basin. Without access to information and key documents, buyers and investors cannot demonstrate that they are sourcing legally-produced timber. Nor can producers prove that they are in fact following the rules.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) has a long-standing history of creating information tools in the Congo Basin forest sector. Our newest contribution is the Open Timber Portal, which builds on data collected by the National Forest Atlases in five Congo Basin countries (Cameroon, CAR, Congo, DRC and Gabon) and the Global Forest Watch partnership.
The Open Timber Portal is an independent web platform that promotes trade in legally harvested forest products by compiling information about forest sector compliance from government, private sector and Independent Forest Monitors (IFM) in producer countries. It aims to bring transparency to timber operations and supply chains by making available key information and documents about compliance with timber legality requirements and on-the-ground management practices. The Open Timber Portal compiles information from three different sources: official concession boundaries and operator information from the forest administration; documents uploaded voluntarily by companies to demonstrate legality compliance; and forest management observations by IFM. The Open Timber Portal was designed by WRI in consultation with a number of local civil society organizations, government agencies, companies, and industry associations. The Open Timber Portal serves IFM by improving their access to key company and government documents, helping them prepare and prioritize their missions. After the mission, the IFM are invited to enter their observations in the Open Timber Portal, along with evidence and reports. Each IFM has access to an online library where they can save and organize its reports and associated documentation.
In a time of proliferating web-based tools, why build another platform? The key contribution of the Open Timber Portal is to make more information available at the company level. Other tools often focus on the country level (such as the ETTF Timber Trade Portal, or NEPCon’s Sourcing Hub) or at the level of individual consignments (such as the BVRio Due Diligence Tool). In addition, the Open Timber Portal is the only platform that has been adapted to IFM needs.
While these tools play an important role in company due diligence research, the Open Timber Portal works directly with forest operators in the Congo Basin to voluntarily upload key documents about their company and concession management. The site draws the full list of registered operators in a producer country from the National Forest Atlas, and works with these companies to upload a set of documents defined as key indicators for compliance. Based on the percentage of documents shared, these forest operators are ranked in order of transparency. Traders and importers thereby have a user-friendly overview over all the forest operators producing timber in a country, and can quickly filter by additional criteria such as certification and existence of observations and the associated evidence from independent forest monitoring missions. The website levels the playing field: The portal does not assess or verify legality of operations, or recommend companies, but the Open Timber Portal does provide a free and publicly available tool facilitating due diligence for buyers. At the same time, the portal also provides forest operators with a marketing tool to promote their products, and to differentiate themselves from their competitors by instilling confidence in their operations. Finally, the tool serves as an opportunity for producer country governments to promote their national forest sector to import markets.
While the Open Timber Portal will initially focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, WRI is working on expanding the scope to other relevant timber producing countries, following first with Gabon and Cameroon. The portal will launch in fall of 2017. To sign up for updates or to participate in user testing, please visit the OTP website. For questions, contact Marie Vallee at email@example.com.
Figure 1: The operator page on the Open Timber Portal, highlighting the percentage of documents shared by the company.
Figure 2: The operator page on the Open Timber Portal, highlighting the number of observations of suspected non-compliance submitted by independent forest monitors.
In March 2017, CIDT conducted a workshop to train representatives from forest governance NGO implementing partners on the CV4C project.
The purpose of the workshop was to prepare participants to conduct a gender needs analysis of their institution and a gender and forest governance and monitoring analysis of their own countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, DRC and the Republic of Congo).
The workshop programme covered basic concepts and issues related to gender and forest governance and forest monitoring. The process of conducting a needs analysis was introduced and participants were given the opportunity to practice in local NGOs. Participants also learnt to conduct a gender policy analysis, as well as a national gender and forestry analysis. The workshop was highly participatory and provided many practice opportunities.
Grace Ollomo from partner Brainforest in Gabon attended the gender training: “We are a partner NGO to the CV4C project, and had not fully considered a gender perspective during the implementation of our activity. However, through this capacity building, gender issues will now be integrated into our activities regarding forest governance in Gabon.”
Since the workshop took place gender analyses have been successfully conducted in the five project countries in the Congo Basin. Two of the main needs identified by partners in all five project countries were for gender orientation training for their organisations and for the Forest Monitoring platforms; and support for developing their own gender strategies.
These identified needs are being met by a series of gender orientation workshops conducted in each country. The workshops will also introduce the development of gender strategies, which will be followed in 2018 by technical assistance from the Regional Gender Specialist to assist each implementing partner to develop their gender strategy.
CIDT bid farewell to the 46 participants of the 2015 Improving Forest Governance, who returned to their 22 countries of origin to put new learning into practice. Mr Hugh Speechly closed the IFG course on behalf of the European Forestry Institute (EFI), one of the key course sponsors, along with DFID. Hugh emphasised six broad dimensions of governance, including voice and accountability, rule of law, control of corruption and regulatory quality. Echoing a recent Chatham House report, he noted that Governance reforms in many producer countries have slowed and getting back on track will require a step change in political commitment and willingness to tackle more difficult governance issues. Applying governance trends to participants’ own countries, he challenged the participants on what they could do to make a difference upon their return.
In the final weeks of the course, participants chose from optional modules on Forests and Climate Change, Training of Trainers, Project Proposal Writing and Gender in Forest Governance. These modules were designed deepen knowledge, but also to equip participants to share learning upon return. Working with a personal tutor, each participant developed a personal action plan, detailing concrete practical steps to contribute to improving forest governance upon return home.
CIDT wishes all alumni well and look forward to connecting again in six months, when we follow up on participant action plans and impact.
Images from the closing day of IFG 2015
International Forest Governance practitioners learn from the experience of Rwanda in climate compatible development
Mr Alex Mulisa, Coordinator of FONERWA, the Government of Rwanda National Fund for Environment and Climate Change visited Telford this Summer to speak to the Improving Forest Governance 2015 course.
Community or state-managed forestry? The Improving Forest Governance participants visit Cannock Chase and Wales to find out more
As part of the 6-week Improving Forest Governance course, 46 participants from 22 timber producing and processing countries undertook three field visits to Wales, Cannock Chase and Lathams Timber Yard.
Long Wood Community Woodland
On 13 June 2015 the IFG group headed to rural west Wales to visit a community woodland group. Long Wood Community Woodland is a 121 hectare site regarded as Plantation on Ancient Woodland (PAWS), which lies just north of Lampeter in County Ceredigion. Long Wood is a long-established group that has faced many challenges but remain a strong and cohesive group. IFG participants were hosted by the managing board and the staff for talks, and received tours of the woodland, sawmill and crafts with the local community group members.
The key themes of the study visit were to look at: how community forest management differs from state control; and look at the opportunities for communities to generate income from a woodland as a social enterprise. The group stayed in Aberystwyth, and were hosted by the community in the evening and received a wonderful performance from Cwmann & District Male Voice Choir.
Download the Long Wood Field Trip Guide.
On 18 Jun 2015 the IFG participants visited Cannock Chase to find out how the public forest estate is managed in England. Cannock Chase forest is a public (government) forest managed by the Forestry Commission (FC), and is utilized for recreational purposes, timber production and conservation. The IFG group met local staff to find out how key long term decisions are taken and implemented, and in particular to hear about how forest management planning handles competing priorities for the long-term benefit of both people and the environment.
The key themes of this study visit were to look at the governance of public forests in England; forest management planning and consultation; certification of timber, recreation and the social role of public forests and how the FC responds to climate change.
- Download the Cannock Chase Field Trip Guide.
- Download the Cannock Chase PowerPoint presentation given by Alastair Semple
- View Cannock Chase Forest Plans and Forestry Commission publications.
Latham’s Timber Yard
On 17th June as part of the module on Developing Trade Incentives, IFG participants were hosted by James Latham’s Timber Yard, in Dudley. The theme of the visit was to learn about how a UK company imports sustainable and legal timber, and the processes and systems through which that is realized.
CIDT’s Improving Forest Governance participants take part in the Illegal Logging Update at Chatham House
CIDT was proud to take our 46 Improving Forest Governance (IFG) participants to the 25th Illegal Logging Update and Stakeholder Consultation Meeting at Chatham House on 25th June.