The process for changing environmental practices at the legal level is sometimes slow and laborious in Europe as well as in America, Asia and Africa where the markets usually determine the law. The resolve of some men and women is usually seen to be the determining factor. This is the case in Cameroun, where new people are working for change, among whom is Samuel Nguiffo, the Secretary General of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED).
Some have already nicknamed him the « Robin Hood of Cameroon ». Lawyer by profession, 51 year old Samuel Nguiffo, has put his legal knowledge at the service of the very under priviledged, to help them navigate the legal regulations governing forests, lands and the protection of ecosystems. His commitment to the environmental cause dates back to the 1990s. He contributed to the creation of the Centre for Environment and Development in 1994 and tackled the issue of exploitation of the forest by taking on businesses engaged in the practice, condemning for example the monopolization of lands by agro industrial multinationals.
It is explained on the NGO’s website that faced with the soaring increase in the industrial production of wood, illegal logging of forests, the upsurge in poaching and the heightened commercial pressure on the forest, the CED’s scope of action is progressively extending to issues relating to the extractive industry (petrol and other minerals), identified as threats to the rights of people and the environment. The CED has « developed expertise on advocacy issues, particularly with respect to the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral agencies».
An example of the CED’s work relates to the fight against the sale of illegally harvested wood. Since 2010, Cameroon has collaborated with the European Union within the framework of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to put an end to illegal wood export. Cameroon has therefore undertaken to sell only wood that is legally obtained to the European Union, which, on its part, will facilitate Cameroon’s access to its market. In spite of this commitment however, illegal wood continues to be exported from the tropics to Europe. The entrance of new economic players on the market such as China, also makes it difficult to implement the VPA, and illegal logging has disastrous consequences at the local level. On the global scale, illegal logging in forests is done in spite of ecological and environmental concerns.
Samuel Nguiffo’s Cameroonian NGO works to promote better management of natural resources (forest, petrol, mines, land). Samuel has also led several investigative journalists to the wood market, sometimes risking lawsuits and threats from the companies engaged in it. He has even been fined in such lawsuits, drawing an outcry from defenders of rights of nature and fair trade.
The CED has since organized workshops, particularly on « Chinese policies relating to the legality of wood », and training programmes, one of which was on the « techniques of investigative journalism ». Samuel Nguiffo thus fights for the preservation of the Pygmy way of life and to bring together local and international NGOs.
For further reading:
The CED website : http://www.cedcameroun.org