LIBREVILLE The lush green canopy stretches over
the Akanda National Park one of the many forest jewels that Gabon is
fighting to conserve.
But those living in poverty in the shadow of the park are ambiguous.
They see the forests less as a global treasure to be cosseted and more as a
resource that they need to use to survive.
A bank employee, making his arduous daily commute to the nearby capital
Libreville, glanced up at the immense trees almost with hostility.
I've lived here for two years and I can tell you that I have no
electricity and no water, said the man, dressed in a business suit as he
walked along an earthen road to get to work.
Gabon's forests are a source of national pride, but you can't be proud and
live without a roof over your head.
Last week, Norway announced a $150-million (137-million-euro) contract with
Gabon to reduce its carbon emissions.
The initiative comes under the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), a
UN-launched scheme aimed at encouraging Western help for cash-strapped forest
But the fight against climate change spurred little enthusiasm among local
people who spoke to AFP.
A retired cook, Luc Boudzanga, said he had no pension. To get by, he had to
grow food on land where such activities are banned.
We eat thanks to the forest, Boudzanga says before heading off along the
edge of the park, machete in hand. Otherwise, how would we survive?
It is not just poor people who eye the forest as a resource loggers and
miners, too, argue that the trees and the mineral-rich land below deserve to
be used, a position fiercely opposed by green campaigners.
Faced with these competing pressures, the government has to perform a
Under the 10-year deal signed on September 22, Gabon which is still
almost 90 percent covered in forest will become the first African country
to be paid for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.
Norway will pay Gabon $10 for every ton of carbon not emitted, relative to
the Central African country's annual average between 2005-2014, and up to a
maximum payout of $150 million over 10 years.
The country's forestry minister is British-born Lee White, who rose to
prominence as a feisty environmental campaigner, and then as a spell as
former director of the national parks.
He took office after a scandal erupted over a huge, illegally-logged haul
of kevazingo, a rare tropical hardwood.
The Norway agreement is a reward for Gabon's environmental efforts, White
said in an interview with AFP in New York.
They will pay us because we have not deforested, and because we've managed
logging responsibly, and reduced emissions linked to logging, said White, a
British and Gabonese national, speaking in French.
White said the emphasis is to encourage smarter, greener practices among
forestry companies that he says produce 80 percent of Gabon's carbon dioxide
If we can reduce the width of roads, cut trees in a direction that
minimises damage, reduce the size of bulldozer tracks, and boost forestry
rotation periods, we can take lots of steps to reduce emissions, he said.
Lee stressed enforcing the law to wipe out illegal exploitation of the
But, in an olive branch to loggers, he said that seized stocks of
kevazingo, a highly expensive wood prized by furniture makers, would be
After that, White said, he hoped to re-authorise legal logging of kevazingo
as early as next year, or in 2021.
Measures to deal with illegal logging have been boosted by the Gabonese
Agency for Space Studies and Observation (AGEOS), which since 2015 has been
linked up with the satellites of several other agencies with eyes on the
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)