COLOGNE, GERMANY — Africa Wood for Life, an association of forestry companies in the Congo Basin and West Africa, emphasized the beneficial social and ecological changes that result in relying on Forest Stewardship Council-certified exotic lumber at a press conference at Interzum 2009.

A group of companies and organizations formed the group to promote certification of forests in the Congo Basin. Danzer Group, which owns two lumber companies and is one of the largest harvesters and exporter of woods from Africa, is part of the group and has been working in the area for years. It has to constantly battle competition from companies that log illegally and charge much less, according to speakers at the press conference.

Members of the group hope to see more customers require that their logs be certified. The FSC and the World Wildlife Fund are part of the group, and both organizations foster the certification of logs in Congo Basin because part of the certification process requires companies to create beneficial social and ecological changes in forests that they own.

One example given by the speakers was that logging companies will create jobs for local residents. This will provide residents with an income and benefits such as health care, thus improving their quality of life. Sustainably managing the forests means that the effects on local wildlife and animals such as the lowland gorilla and elephant, must be taken into consideration. These benefits are in addition to the fact that the forest will be well managed to provide future harvests, the speakers said.

Thus far, as a result of these efforts, there are currently 4.2 million hectares of certified forests in the Congo Basin and Africa now has more hectares of FSC-certified forests than Brazil. Africa Wood's goal is to get to 10 million hectare certified by 2015. The primary species harvested in the area are sapele, iroke and sipo.

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