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Social policies of forest concessionaires in West and Central Africa

Karsenty A., Jégou C., Singer B.. 2008. Montpellier : CIRAD, 28 p..

Timber concessions in West and Central Africa have traditionally left a dismal record in terms of social policies that go back to the colonial period, yet these same policies have undergone unprecedented change in a limited number of concessions over the past few years. This paper draws on data primarily collected through interviews with representatives of large groups operating in the region. It describes the myriad ways in which timber concessionaires have devised means of improving the welfare of local populations and their own staff in collaboration with NGOs. In terms of policies towards local populations, several companies have recently begun implementing participatory mapping activities inside concessions so as to locate sites of social, economic and cultural importance to nearby populations. The exercise differs according to the type of population targeted: in the case of sedentary villagers (who are mostly Bantu), mapping generally involves identifying village ranges, known in Frenchspeaking Africa as finages. In the case of semi-nomadic populations, notably Pygmies, the use of the forest, and thus mapping activities, focus much more on identifying certain species found throughout the forest rather than specific geographical zones. In addition, a number of companies have formalized dialogue with local populations by setting up a range of committees that aim to (i) resolve conflicts and (ii) discuss how to allocate social expenditures and deliveries by companies. These include giving food, building or contributing to the running of schools and health posts, and providing populations with facilities such as roads and drinking water supplies. These same firms have also sought to improve the living and working conditions of their own staff. Whilst only some companies have successfully provided workers and their families with adequate accommodation, most of them have introduced new equipment and specific rules to ensure safety at work and reduce the number of work.

Mots-clés : forêt tropicale; afrique centrale; afrique occidentale; concession

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