Unsustainable Logging Practises, Economic Viability of Logging in Africa and Continued Bushmeat Hunting
Let me start with your concluding proposed solution which has three parts: Setting up the code of conduct, the incentives for logging, and the need for a level playing field.
Question: Was that not the take off point, based on which sustainable logging criteria were discussed and loggers were to be certified some 10 years ago? (An issue which is no longer even mentioned in your endorsement of present conservation/logging cooperation agreements.)
Isn't it a fact that today not a single cubic meter of certified timber (under an internationally recognized system) is coming out of Central Africa?
At what stage will the continuing unsustainable logging practices impact the very wildlife these new projects are supposed to protect?
Hasn't it already been established that logging disturbance in itself, without hunting, has a similar impact on chimp populations and distribution as hunting does in unlogged forests?
However I do see the difference in the two (past and present) proposals for certification:
With FSC, loggers were responsible for implementing a wide range of management criteria and were expected to do so at their own cost and then pay an international surveillance outfit to come and do an independent third party audit. With the proposed wildlife management code of conduct it would be largely left to the government and conservation NGO's to accept responsibility for the implementation and there is no word on who would certify and what this auditing process would include and who would pay for it.
The reason for the above adaption to loggers needs seems to be established in your second paragraph: "Preliminary findings and recommendations":
"Loggers need technical help, they have no experts in wildlife management".
Many of the logging companies in question do operate private aircraft to fly around executives. Did they become aviation experts and pilots? No, it seems they hired pilots! Why shouldn't the logging companies hire wildlife experts to implement these new codes of conduct? Furthermore is bushmeat and poaching control really a wildlife management issue or one of managing people?
Then comes your most crucial paragraph." Loggers need to remain competitive economically. Until laws are harmonized costs of wildlife management should be offset by donors or governments to compensate companies for good behavior and ensure that they remain competitive."
First let's forget governments making funds available for wildlife management in and around logging concession. Lets talk about it when there is such a commitment. Second have the loggers agreed, in any form, that they will start absorbing the costs once a level playing field is established?? There is no such indication in any of the meeting minutes of any of the CEO meetings discussing these cooperation agreements.
Now about this "need for logging to remain competitive":
Were any representative of any Rain Forest Protection organizations, who have some pretty good idea as to the profitability of logging in Central Africa, present at this meeting?
Did anybody bring any balance sheet or operating statements for any of the big logging outfits operations in Central Africa or/and their overseas holding companies. Were salary levels of logging company CEO's being discussed?
Did anybody present the figures from the last World Bank mission report, which evaluated the CIB/WCS cooperation agreement? This to me is a real eye opener:
The wildlife management project cost for a two year period was US$ 640,000 involving what seems to be a small corner of the concession. The JGI proposal for a similar project has a $6 million overall price tag. Where will the money be coming from: "To build on pilot activities and keep momentum going...?"
Were you told how the US$ 640,000 for the CIB/WCS pilot project was made up? That CIB contributed $75,000 in kind, WCS $180,000 in cash end the rest came in form of donor or taxpayer money.
Were the overall figures provided? The gross income, from annual sales of 270,000 m3, is estimated by the bank as being some S50 million, on which the company pays 4.4% in local payroll and 6.6% in tax and O.18% FOR WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT. If a company with such basic operating figures is not highly profitable, then the best way to spend money would be to pay scholarships for loggers to go to business school.
Lets be dramatic here. If an old lady with a $1000 pension were to give $50, so no more chimps and gorillas get slaughtered around Kabo, she would have proportionally contributed more than the logging company did.
Did anybody ask the question of how you will explain to a timber consumer in the west that he should continue to only buy certified timber from Africa or anywhere else, while at the same time his tax dollar will be used to keep logging companies more competitive/profitable, so that even more forest can be unsustainably logged?
Did anybody point out that a tropical hard wood window frame in Germany today costs the same as a local, inferior quality, soft wood frame? That the green conscience of the buyer is neutralized by a price which in other economic sectors would be classified as dumping? Is this the type of competitivness to be maintained?
Is this really the formula based on which: "We need to extend pilot 'success' to additional logging concessions and companies?"
Just a few more questions, on the roles of the various players as presented in your opinion piece:
I am glad you clarified some of the roles which up to know had never been spelt out.
The conservation NGO's will establish the criteria for sound wildlife management and certification. They will pay for it. Fine no problem at all.
So with the legislative side covered we come to the executive role. You state: Government employees trained by conservation NGOs and financed by multiple sources will do most of the law enforcement. Did anybody ask how many cases of effective law enforcement exist in the Central African Bush Meat context where government employees make the decisions - and the magistrates behind them actually back them up??
I agree that barriers manned by these "Eco guards" could have an impact on prices of bush meat, mainly because traders and hunters will have to pay more "incentives". Higher prices could have an impact on consumer demand. (although we seem to not even have the basics for discussing price elasticity and its impact on consumer demand, with your findings that bush meat is cheaper in urban centers like Yaounde and with my anecdotal data and most of the scientific one pointing in the opposite direction).
Loggers will enforce a code of conduct for its employees: Did anybody ask what percentage of a logging towns population might be covered by such policies and procedures. In case of Pokola, the CIB headquarters, the employees amount to 1000, the family members to 10,000, and the hangers on to 5000. And according to D. Shear's study each one of the employees earns the same amount in bush meat related activities as he does in salary. What chance has a logging company got to get employees to accept new rules and regulations if their salary is not doubled? What would that do to profitability and competitiveness?
Then there is the importation of protein substitutes: Will this go beyond what our investigation revealed is happening at Pokola/CIB - which officially has such a policy and which according to our investigators amounts to the import of one cow on Friday for the Moslem population which traditionally does not eat bush meat anyway.
Having a legislative aspect and an executive one, there remains the Judiciary: Who will audit these project and based on what criteria? There is no mention as to what any donor will get or is getting in terms of evidence that these are not just exercises in window dressing? You state barriers CAN halt transportation of bushmeat. Was the question asked HAVE THEY and how was that audited and monitored? Will the auditing process involve investigative methods like with all other contraband anywhere else in the world (e.g. undercover investigations)?
Let me finish with two more questions:
How many of the participants to the conference went to the bush meat section of the main Libreville market to see fresh elephant trunk and chimp and gorilla arms on open display - as we had no problem to document a few weeks ago. Did they ask themselves or the participants the question what could be expected from the lonely government guard at a bush meat barrier as long as the above mentioned scenario plays out every day under the very eyes of the conservation executives, the ministers and the police commanders?
How many took the trip out to the main Oukume Port, some 30 kms from town. A huge facility and a beehive of activity with dozens of caterpillars loading and unloading trains, lorries, ships and floats. 24 hours a day - under floodlights - 7 days a week. A real sight - of Africas primary forest trees in their final transport stage. How many were tempted to pull their check books and make a donation so the logging industry could remain competitive?
It seems I have once again lived up to my image a being constantly negative. Sorry, David, I do respect your energy, dedication and expertise. However, I would be doing no one a favor by hiding my disagreement.
As it stands I am pretty much convinced that nothing we have done so far, not the dozens of expensive meetings, not the magazine and newspaper features, not the thousands of E-mail messages, has resulted in a single commercial hunter not pulling the trigger when an easy target, in form of a chimp, gorilla or elephant walked into the gun sight. Once I see meaningful and lasting change on the ground, in the hunting camps I still visit regularly, I will be happy to join the back slapping team and be a good team player.
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