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Outcome Story - Congo Basin timber: Examining the potential to boost the volume of legal wood used in construction and furniture-making


Project Summary:

Project title: Congo Basin Timber: Examining the Potential to Boost the Volume of Legal Wood Used in Construction and Furniture Making in the Congo Basin

Project duration: 1 year, 7 months (13-Nov-2014 - 13-Jun-2016)

Project funding: Total PROFOR investment of USD 196,405.09

Project partners: ATIBT, CIFOR/CIRAD, ITTO, ONFI and FIB

Key deliverables: Report: Central Africa Congo Basin Timber: Case studies of urban wood products markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon

Overview of policy or practice situation project sought to influence: This activity aimed to improve knowledge and prioritize options for policies and targeted investments for improved domestic timber utilization in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specifically, the study aimed to build on prior knowledge to better understand the solutions needed to overcome barriers to expanding the market for legal (and sustainable) timber and processed wood products used in the domestic furniture and construction markets in two countries.

Nature of the policy or practice influence observed: The study generated recommendations for priority areas for intervention to improve the usage of domestic timber divided into steps and measures in the short, medium and long-term to develop the value-added wood processing industry in Cameroon and DRC (Table 1). 

Potential significant of influence: (a) The findings in Cameroon have fed into the considerations for how to best procure local and legal wood for shared processing facilities to be financed under the policy dialogue, complementing the work done under the Cameroon - Competitive Value Chains (P112975) project.

(b) More broadly, the study's findings are useful to policy-makers and potential investors in the forest sector in the countries of the Congo Basin, as well as in the ongoing World Bank dialogue on forests and climate in these countries.


Research design features that enhanced policy/practice relevance:

For both Cameroon and DRC, data availability proved a major constraint to conducting in-depth analysis, as well as the lack of capacity of small-scale chainsaw millers to provide volumes in standard unit measurements. Thus, from a technical perspective, research design features of the study focused on ways to extrapolate on the available data as well as build on prior work in this area in order to develop policy-relevant recommendations.

Key inputs, knowledge products, events or interactions that lead to policy/practice influence:

Decision-makers from the public and private sectors (including potential investors), civil society and environmental groups were the primary audience for this work. Thus, data, information, and evidence were gathered from varied sources including through questionnaires directed at wood-workers and at furniture stores, in the two countries. The information was discussed in several workshops and collated into a final report.

Dissemination Workshops:

  • Kinshasa, DRC, March 2, 2016, Dissemination Workshop: Improving the sustainability of forest sector production in DRC
  • Yaounde, Cameroon, June 1, 2016, Workshop: Demand for legally processed wood in Cameroon

Final Report: Central Africa Congo Basin Timber: Case studies of urban wood products markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon

Recommendations for the development of the domestic timber processing sectors in DRC and Cameroon:


  1. Support investment in tools and materials to produce better-quality products (through drying and processing)
  2. Support the increased visibility of the artisanal wood products sections, perhaps through the creation of cooperatives to federated artisanal operators to facilitate increased promotion of the sector (see current experiences in Cameroon with timber traders, and with associations of artisanal producers based in and around Kisangani - cluster model)
  3. Create a model for socially responsible specifications to improve monitoring and thus the eventual availability of legal, locally-sourced wood for small-scale processors (see current debated in DRC about Simple Management Plans for community concessions)
  4. Enforce regulations through effective sanctions and financial incentives
  5. Promote species substitution (with lesser-known species)
  6. Develop skills related to the use of lesser known tree species


  1. Provide training to operators and artisans to minimize waste and maximize the use and valuation of raw wood materials
  2. Promote local wood as an aspirational good with examples of modern buildings and furniture to attract consumers and break the "wood is for villagers" paradigm and target the growing urban middle class in the region
  3. Promote innovation in wood-building design by showcasing African designers and architects from across the continent
  4. Promote and sponsor the use of local and legally-sourced wood for the creation of hotels, lodges, base camps and other tourism infrastructure
  5. Develop and promote the use of an integrated information system or tool that could facilitate the monitoring of permit allocations, the declaration of volumes and deliveries, as well as track tax payments. 

Medium- to long-term:

  1. Respond to the local demand for lower-priced wood products by manufacturing low-cost (but high-quality) products by training artisanal suppliers

Key policy or practice influence strategies

For Cameroon:

1) The study was able to capitalize on ongoing discussion and investments focused on developing small-scale wood processing facilities in country led by the Government with World Bank support as well as the support of the broader donor community. This policy dialogue, complementing the work done under the Cameroon - Competitive Value Chains (P112975) project, is anticipated to continue, with MINEPAT and MINFOF agreeing to continue to facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for small- and medium-sized wood processors in the sector.

For DRC:

1) The policy dialogue with the government is expected to continue, complementing the work done under the Review of the Forest Sector of the DRC (P152956) with the Ministry agreeing to formulate a list of priority interventions for the forestry sector more broadly.

2) Greater attention is being given to the informal sector, and how to formalize small-scale chainsaw millers operating in this space, as distinct from a situation where attention is mostly focused on better regulating the formal sector, such as on lifting the moratorium on allocating new forest concessions.


Political context:

This work built on ongoing Bank dialogue and prior forest sector analytical work in both countries, notably, the more recent Megevand et al. study (2013), Deforestation Trends in the Congo Basin Reconciling Economic Growth and Forest Protection, and Lee et al. 2015 study, “Managing a valuable resource: Policy notes on increasing the sustainability of the DRC’s Forests”. As part of the countries’ interests in pursuing the green growth agenda, the WB Country Director at the time of the study’s start felt it would be important to examine the potential for sourcing legal local wood to fuel the growing construction sector.

Other external factors:

As part of both the DRC and Cameroon’s FLEG-T commitments, through their VPAs, both countries have committed to tackling the issue of ensuring legality in their domestic wood processing sectors. This piece has proven to be more challenging than initially anticipated, and thus it was hoped that through additional analytical work, policymakers could gain an increased understanding of opportunities for increasing the legal and local supply of wood on the domestic market.

The most significant contributing factors in achieving the outcome:

Obtaining reliable data on the forest sector, especially for the informal sector in Cameroon and DRC is challenging and for some segments of the timber supply chain, may be nearly impossible. Care has been taken to partner with CIFOR, ATIBT and ITTO, who have institutional experience in this area, as well as necessary relationships with national and local stakeholders and agents to access this information, in order to mitigate this risk.

Variables for the cross-case analysis, and type of answer:

  • Score that the project received against the project design rubric - Met expectations
  • Score that the project received against the project level uptake rubric - Met expectations
  • Whether the activity involved translating knowledge for specific priority groups - No
  • Whether the activity included engagement/ exchange of ideas, and co-development of knowledge with target audience - Yes
  • Whether the activity included engagement/ exchange of ideas, and co-development of knowledge with target audience - Yes
  • Whether the activity was modified as a result of learnings from monitoring and reflection - Yes
  • Whether the activity was modified in the light of learning from other projects/settings - No
  • Whether the activity involved collaboration more than one KNOWFOR partner - Yes
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