Gabon’s Massaha community sacred forest being logged despite government assurances for it to become a community protected area
July 5, 2022
Massaha community’s sacred forest being logged despite government assurances for it to become Gabon’s first-ever community protected area.
Logging has resumed in northeastern Gabon in the local community of Massaha’s ancestral forest of unique bio-cultural diversity, despite a commitment by the Forest Ministry to suspend all timber operations in the area and to support the community’s quest to establish the country’s first community protected area.1
Massaha’s forest is covered by the timber concession of Transport Bois Négoce International (TBNI)2, whose subcontractor Wan Chuan Timber Sarl (WCTS)3 is conducting the current logging. Previous logging and road-building by both Chinese companies in the area has been documented as breaking many aspects of Gabonese forestry law including the destruction of ancestral villages, a sacred site, and ecologically sensitive areas.4
Following an outcry by the community and international organisations, the Minister Lee White visited the community in March 2022 and pledged to halt the activities of the company. He also provided a two-month deadline for his ministry, in collaboration with the community of Massaha, to complete the necessary paperwork to establish the protected area.
The community submitted the required documentation, including the demarcation of the area, in a letter to the administration dated 3 May 2022, but has received no response.
Now the logging has resumed in the area, with a community patrol 1 July 2022 photographing ongoing illegal activities including tree felling in streams and wire snares laid by WCTS employees, just 1.1 km from the southwestern limit of their proposed community protected area, to which it was rapidly advancing (see attached).
The community has named the area Ibola Dja Bana Ba Massaha — the reserve of all Massaha’s children. Safeguarding its unique bio-cultural diversity through a community-protected area represents a unique and innovative opportunity for Gabon.5
We reiterate our previous urge to the government of Gabon to:
- Immediately cease logging activities in the concession until such time that the alleged legal breaches have been fully investigated and dealt with according to Gabonese law including, if necessary, the cancellation of the concession;
- Take the necessary legislative and practical measures to support Massaha’s claim to establish a community-run protected area;
- Commit to promoting tenure and rights-based approaches to conserving nature in general, including through ongoing land-use planning reforms.