Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

The domestic market for small-scale chainsaw milling in Cameroon: Present situation, opportunities and challenges

Paolo Omar Cerutti
Guillaume Lescuyer
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 52
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. ix-x)

    Since early 2008, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been studying the domestic timber sector in Cameroon, Gabon (Libreville), Republic of Congo (Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire), Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and Central African Republic (Bangui), together with partners based in these countries. Funding to conduct research at the sub-regional level was granted mainly by the Netherlands International Cooperation Agency, the European Union and the French Development Agency.

    We decided to conduct parallel research on the domestic timber sector in several countries in the Congo Basin for several reasons. First, very little information is available on this sector, which is...

  2. (pp. 1-4)

    Cameroon’s timber production and exports have been well documented since the colonial era (e.g. Hédin 1930, Chambre d’Agriculture de l’Elevage et des Forêts du Cameroun 1959, MINFOF 2006). From independence (1960) until the second half of the 1990s, (Figure 1), timber production grew steadily and substantially

    After independence and throughout the economic boom from 1970 to the end of the 1980s, national demand for timber for urban construction and infrastructure grew. The timber was produced by a small number of industrial forestry firms, mostly foreign owned (Eba’a Atyi 1998, Wunder 2003). Towards the end of the economic boom, exports, which...

  3. (pp. 5-8)

    This survey analysed 3 aspects of Cameroon’s domestic timber sector: production and processing in rural areas and forestlands, sales in the main cities of Cameroon and exports to neighbouring countries, mostly to Chad and Nigeria. A specific methodological approach (described below) was used for each aspect.

    An upstream analysis of the sector was carried out on a sample group of councils and informal chainsaw millers. The analysis used 2 methods: information collection in urban markets and discussions with local actors. Both methods were used to identify which councils regularly supply substantial volumes of timber to these markets. The 44 councils...

  4. (pp. 9-18)

    In most of the councils studied, chainsaw milling can be traced back to the 1980s or earlier, although it was less developed and different in nature than at present. In rural areas, chainsaw milling exists because of long-standing local demand for timber to build houses and furniture, more recent demand from markets in nearby urban areas and markets in neighbouring countries, and the availability of trained chainsaw operators. Over time, this small-scale activity catering to the needs of rural households developed into an informal sector catering to growing urban demand.

    In some councils, the establishment of a forest logging company...

  5. (pp. 19-24)

    The quantities of sawnwood sold by the individual outlets vary considerably each month; there are also noticeable differences between sales in the big cities in the sample and among outlets of the same market.

    Periodical variations in sales can be partly explained by seasonal variations, connected to the dry and rainy seasons, which affect access to the forests and the feasibility of chainsaw operations (Figure 10).

    However, periodical variations in sales are influenced by more than just seasonal changes.

    Several times during the survey period, special conditions affected sales in a marketplace or in a whole district of a city...

  6. (pp. 25-30)

    For at least 15 years, Cameroon’s forest policies have ignored small-scale chainsaw millers, who took actions to develop an informal sector that progressed without the attention recently bestowed by the government, funding agencies, timber companies, NGOs and even research centres. Chainsaw milling has become a big, efficient, economic sector, open to international business. It is a sector that has all the characteristics of a competitive market: atomised supply and demand, relatively accessible information on prices, few barriers to entry and exit, and relatively standard products.

    In contrast to the industrial timber sector, the domestic sector caters to national demand by...

  7. (pp. 31-34)

    The permits for chainsaw milling created under the forestry law have not been satisfactory: some do not allow sales and only cover small volumes (personal logging permit); others require formal recognition as a logger (timber exploitation permit for small-scale processing); and all of them entail cumbersome procedures. For example, since 2006, all permits have been centralised and are issued in Yaoundé.

    For a small-scale chainsaw miller, the way towards legality is not impenetrable—but almost. Ill-adapted measures create illegal situations (Lescuyer 2007), either because legality is beyond the reach of most small-scale chainsaw millers, or because certain actors decide tos...

  8. (pp. 35-35)

    Chainsaw milling operations are vital to the well-being of tens of thousands of urban and rural Cameroonians. During the past few years, this sector has become at least as important as the industrial forestry sector, having produced some 2.1 million m³ of wood, created about 45 000 jobs (direct) and generated more than 20 billion F CFA. However, forest policies tend to ignore its existence, thus making the state the main loser in the growth of this almost totally informal sector, with no official data collected to assess the sector’s economic, environmental and social impacts. Cameroon, upon entering into a...