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Training Gabonese civil society on sustainable palm oil and wood production
Training Gabonese civil society on sustainable palm oil and wood production
News 08/09/2021

Gabon, which has 5.2 million hectares of agricultural land, has set itself the goal of becoming one of Africa's leading palm oil producers by 2025, while trying to limit deforestation linked to this.

The Congo Basin is one of the largest forest reserves in the world. It spans five countries in Central Africa, one of which is Gabon, covering 400 million hectares and housing 93.2 million inhabitants. With the highest rate of forest area per inhabitant in Africa, Gabon has 21.09 million hectares of forests more than 80 percent of country's total land.

It is estimated that Gabonese forests are home to between 30 and 40 percent of flora in the Congo Basin on 10% of the sub-region's territory. High density forests enabled Gabon to capture 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 between 2016 and 2017.

By 2022, Gabon aims to have all its land development certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The hope is that this contributes to economic development by fighting against climate change and preserving its biodiversity, making Gabon a destination for green and responsible investments.

The framework of the project funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), along with technical support from WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), aims to make Gabonese civil society organisations (CSOs) active players in improving the governance of agro-industrial and forestry operations by 2025.

It plans to do so by ensuring the environmental and social commitments (RSPO, FSC and other commitments) made by private companies are respected. A training session for CSOs training local communities was held from 11 to 18 July in Mouila in NGOUNIE province, Gabon. Mouila was selected to host this training as it is at the heart of a landscape which hosts palm oil and logging operations.

Thus, eight Gabonese Civil Society Organisations signed a common Charter within the framework of the "Coalition of national CSOs for the implementation of environmental and social commitments of companies in Gabon". Under the project, the 19 members of the eight CSO trainers of the COSC-RSE Gabon Coalition were pre-identified during the mapping of national and local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in order to strengthen their capacities.

Earthworm Foundation's office in Cameroon, conducted the training through its Country Manager Erith Ngatchou. For Erith, this training is part of Earthworm Foundation's resilience strategy, as he explained: “Our philosophy is; we promote verification of what we do, not by third parties but by communities or by CSOs who often criticize the activities and operations of companies. Training civil society also aims at making them understand what we do, because civil society is an actor in the alerts we often see. Giving this training was really an opportunity to present what we do but in a concrete way, to share the experience on different way to approach and address sustainability challenges within a given landscape”.

In addition to building the capacity of CSOs, the training aimed to equip national civil society members with tools in participatory mapping, Free Prior and Informed Consent, High Carbon Stock Approach, Grievance Management and Conflict Resolution, environmental and social clause of contract between communities and companies, the advocacy skills needed to speak with a common and influential voice in favour of the implementation of best practices resulting from the environmental and social commitments made by palm oil and the forestry companies.

At the end of the course, positive feedbacks were received from the participants, such as from Mr. Ladislas Ndembet, Director of Muyissi Environnement, a Gabonese civil society, who said: " It was good to get into the environment of these certifications, both FSC for forestry operators and RSPO for agribusinesses. It allowed us to get into this environment, which is not always known by many organisations and members of organisations involved in sustainable development, environmental protection or conservation. So it allowed us to get to know the different FSC principles, as well as the different RSPO principles. So that was quite interesting and I think many of us were not aware of that environment ".

In the end, one of the outputs of this training is that there are still similar requests for such sessions, whether in Guinea or in several other countries. A proof of the social impact of Earthworm Foundation's activities around the world.

With the highest rate of forest area per inhabitant in Africa, Gabon has 21.09 million hectares of forests more than 80 percent of country's total land. It is estimated that Gabonese forests are home to between 30 and 40 percent of flora in the Congo Basin on 10% of the sub-region's territory. High density forests enabled Gabon to capture 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 between 2016 and 2017.

By 2022, Gabon aims to have all its land development certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The hope is that this contributes to economic development and addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, making it a destination for green investments.

In support of this, a project is being funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), along with technical support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This project aims to make Gabonese CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) active players in improving agro-industrial and forestry governance by 2025.

From 18 to 20 July, a training session was held for CSOs in Mouila, Ngounié province, Gabon. Mouila was selected as it is at the heart of a landscape which hosts palm oil and logging operations.

Thus, eight Gabonese CSOs signed a charter within the framework of the "Coalition of National CSOs for the Implementation of Environmental and Social Commitments of Companies in Gabon (COSC-RSE Gabon Coalition)." Under the project, 19 people were identified during a mapping of national and local organisations.

Earthworm's Cameroon country manager Erith Ngatchou led the training. For Erith, this training was part of Earthworm's resilience strategy.

“We promote verification of what we do, not by third parties but by communities or CSOs who often criticise companies. Training civil society also aims at making them understand what we do. This training was really an opportunity to present what we do but in a concrete way; to share experiences on different ways to approach and address sustainability challenges within a landscape,” Erith explained.

The training also aimed to equip civil society with tools such as participatory mapping, Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach. Other topics covered were advocacy skills, grievance management and conflict resolution, and environmental and social contract clauses between communities and companies.

"It was good to get into the environment of these certifications, both FSC for forestry operators and RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) for agribusinesses. It allowed us to get into this environment, which is not always known by many involved in sustainable development, environmental protection or conservation. So it allowed us to get to know the different FSC principles, as well as the different RSPO principles. That was quite interesting and I think many of us were not aware," said Ladislas Ndembet, Director of Muyissi Environment, a Gabonese civil society organisation.

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