Gabon has been implementing a policy for sustainable forest exploitation since 2001. However, its administration lacks the means to effectively control forest exploitation. It is for this reason that France and Gabon have approved EUR 12m of financing for a project to scale up the administration’s means of control.
Over 80% of the national territory covered by forests
Gabon’s forests cover an area of roughly 22 million hectares, i.e. over 85% of the national territory, meaning the country has the highest per capita forest cover in Africa. Forests have always played an important role in the country’s development. On the economic front, although the forest sector only makes a small contribution to Government revenue, it ranks in 3rd place after oil and mineral resources. Finally, Gabon is one of the only forest countries not to have suffered from massive deforestation (the current forest cover is more or less equivalent to the level in the 2000s).
The exploited forest area covers 14 million hectares.
Tools for more sustainable forest management
Gabon has been implementing a policy for sustainable forest exploitation since 2001, with a Forest Code, which states that all forestry sites must comply with a development plan validated by the administration.
These plans include annual cutting areas, equivalent to approximately 1/25 of the exploitable area under the operator’s concession, and the other areas remain unexploited during this period. This rotation system ensures that trees are regenerated during the 25-year fallow period (foresters using these practices cut between 1 and 5 trees per hectare).
Development plans: a question of trees, men and fauna
These plans include compliance with standards for human resources (compliance with labor law, providing minimum levels of social services, etc.), respecting communities who live on the exploited site, exploitation with a low impact on biodiversity, fauna management on the exploited sites (Gabon today shelters almost 50% of forest elephants in Africa), etc.
Ten out of the fourteen million hectares covered by the exploitable forest area have now entered the development process.
Gabon, one of the sources of illegal timber in Central Africa
This forest management is mainly declaratory; a UNEP report shows that Gabon would also appear to hold a sad record, which has until now been due to its porous borders (flow of timber from bordering countries passing through Gabon) and the limits of the administration (lack of staff, resources, etc.). It is thought to be one of the sources of illegal timber in Central Africa, which is mainly exported to Asia.
The “Forest Development Control (CAF)” project aims to ensure that the commitments made by foresters in the development plans deposited with the administration are actually respected in the field. This means that the administration requires available officers in the field; they have to be trained, equipped and have the methods and tools to effectively inspect forestry sites, which is not always the case today.
Better equip the control administration and its officers
The project is based on the following components:
- Provide the devolved services of the Ministry of Water and Forests with facilities to allow officers to stay near the areas that are to be inspected (accommodation, offices, etc.);
- Provide officers with equipment to allow them to independently carry out inspections (all-terrain vehicles, GPS, etc.);
- Provide the central and devolved levels with tools and processes to ensure that there are standardized control procedures (the idea here is to use the forestry code as a basis, but also to include other internationally recognized standards, such as the FSC standard, as well as good practices in Gabon);
- Establish mechanisms and materials for the internal verification of the control (vehicle tracking, centralize and communicate on control records, post-control supervision method, etc.);
- Establish external and independent control verification mechanisms (conducted, for example, by international NGOs working in Gabon).
The project will focus on three forest areas covering 9.4 million hectares, which have been assessed as being the least well-equipped in terms of forestry control.
This project to reinforce the control of forest development has a total cost of EUR 12m and will be financed via the debt conversion agreement signed between France and Gabon in 2008 (total amount of the agreement: EUR 50m), which is exclusively earmarked for the sustainable management of Gabon’s forest ecosystems.
To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the French NGO “Aide et Action”, the conference “All education stakeholders. A multi-stakeholder partnership for Education” provided the opportunity to discover the benefits of partnerships involving civil society and the public and private sectors via feedback from the field. The discussions also highlighted possible ways of enhancing the effectiveness of these partnerships.
“Aide et Action” and AFD: a review of ten years of working together for Education for All
In 2001, AFD and the NGO Aide et Action signed a partnership agreement as part of the launch of the “Education for All” program agreed upon during the Dakar Forum in 2000 and aiming at universal primary education by 2015. The objective of the partnership was to pool their resources and provide greater and equitable access to high-quality basic education in the most disadvantaged regions.
During the first phase, the two partners jointly supported several projects in different regions in Guinea, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Aide et Action’s operations mainly involved mobilizing local authorities and parents and supporting local education services. Aide et Action and AFD subsequently framed their operations within national education programmes.
Classroom in Djourbel (Senegal) / Photo credit: AFD
Enhancing the dialogue between donors and NGOs
AFD is committed to enhancing the dialogue with civil society. Its partnership with Aide et Action (A&A) allows strong synergies to be developed for education. A&A has extensive knowledge of the realities in the field, particularly in areas where access to schooling remains difficult.
Two projects were presented during the conference as examples of this cooperation: The first project, “Education for All in Togo” (EFAT) was, as its title suggests, implemented in Togo where AFD handled the institutional component (capacity building for ministries at the national level), while A&A dealt with the social component by mobilizing families and building the capacities of local stakeholders (support for schools).
This project led to a marked increase in enrolment rates in the Savanes region in Northern Togo, the country’s poorest region with the lowest enrolment rate.
The second project supported decentralization in seven West African countries and, once again, A&A provided its expertise to local stakeholders (elected officials, local authorities, communities, school managers) with the aim of enhancing the implementation of national policies at the local level.
Promoting expertise sharing between the South and North
A&A also presented two new forms of partnership during the conference:
First, partnerships between the public and private sectors and the related benefits in the education sector in terms of financing, expertise and innovation; second, South/North partnerships, illustrated by the cooperation between A&A Africa and the City of Argenteuil for a project to support the educational pathways of children in difficult situations.
These different presentations highlighted the benefits of partnerships established between civil society, the public sector and the private sector. They underlined the need to define the roles, responsibilities and expectations of each stakeholder in order to ensure that the dialogue and cooperation take place in the best possible conditions. During the discussions, it was also emphasized that lessons can be learned from initiatives developed in the South by stakeholders in the North, even in very different contexts.
Building on their discussions and cooperation, Dov Zerah, Chief Executive Officer of AFD, and Claire Calosci, Director of Aide et Action, agreed to enhance the dialogue in the field of training and youth integration, topics which A&A is already working on in India.
Where does Sub-Saharan Africa stand today in terms of education and vocational training? Does it have the capacity to help its future generations move toward employment? What strengths and tools does it have? Four experts from the Education Division provide us with insight.
In Africa, two-thirds of the population is under 24. This youth is the continent’s greatest hope, but also poses a huge challenge for Africa’s development as 20% of young people are unemployed.
Basic education, but also vocational training
To address these challenges, over the past ten years AFD has invested over €1bn in the education/training sector, 2/3 of which in Africa. Over the next three years, its financing for education is expected to exceed €500m, again mainly in Africa. (Summary of the interview with Virginie Bleitracht).
School enrollment has risen by 31% in ten years
Over the past ten years or so, huge strides have been made in terms of access to primary school. Sub-Saharan Africa has had the highest results over the past ten years: school enrollment has risen by 31% (i.e. 58 million additional pupils).Vocational training finally becoming a priority for public policies.
On average, only 5% of the National Education budget is allocated to vocational training, which is by no means enough. Vocational training is a rapidly developing sector in most Sub-Saharan African countries. Most African leaders have made vocational training and youth integration one of their priorities. That being said, we have come a very long way, as many countries have training systems that are undersized, with outdated facilities and trainers who have not benefited from continuous refresher training for a very long time.
Match supply and demand on the labor market
AFD is increasingly helping to build partnerships between training centers and companies (public-private partnerships) in order to better match training to business needs. (Summary of the interview with Christian Fusillier)
NICTs, a solution to improve access to education and training and its quality?
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows the strong link between the use of digital tools and student performance. Generally speaking, the problems identified are the need to improve both access to education and its quality. Digital tools are ideally suited to meet these challenges. Many obstacles have now been removed. The digital market is reaching maturity and mobile phone penetration rates have seen a substantial increase over the past ten years. In the early 2000s, the geographical coverage rate stood at 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, it has reached 80%. This also represents 30% of the population.
(Summary of the interview with Jean-Christophe Maurin)