The Ministry of Water and Forests in Gabon

Text by Pierre Romuald Ombigath, Focal Point of the Ministry of Water and Forests within the project GCP/RAF/441/GER


The Ministry of Water and Forests is in charge of insuring a sustainable and responsible management of Gabon’s forest resources and is assigned to monitor and control the rigorous application of existing rules and regulations in the forestry sector.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Gabon is fully engaged in the process of sustainable management of its forest resources through the commitment to the Year 2000 Objective of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Convergence Plan of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC). In 2001, a new forestry law was adopted (law 016/01 from 31st December 2001) with the following three main axes:

  • Sustainable management of forest resources,
  • Industrialization of the timber value chain,
  • Conservation and protection of ecosystems
The Minister of Water and Forests officially opens FAO's Right to Food training in Libreville, Gabon, October 2010 (Photo: Luisa Cruz)

in order to contribute to poverty alleviation for the Gabonese populations.

Gabon efforts towards a sustainable management of its forest include the elaboration of a timber framework plan as well as the definition of standards and guidelines for the management and inventory of the Gabonese forests. The Ministry of Water and Forests developed these guidelines for sustainable management in close collaboration with the African Timber Organization (ATO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The guidelines define Principals, Criteria and Indicators for the sustainable management while elucidating on the usefulness and use of field tests and tools for implementation and evaluation of the measures taken by forest enterprises for a sustainable management of their forest resources. The elaboration of these instruments allowed the setup of a general reference system forming the basis for certification processes and audits.

Non-Wood Forest Products

For decades, the forest policy did not consider non-wood forest products as valuable products that should be integrated in the Ministry’s activities; their mention in some pilot projects or programs such as the Forest and Environment Sector Program (FESP), implemented since 2001, was not followed by concrete activities on the ground. Until now, the Ministry of Water and Forests does not assign tasks related to non-wood forest products to any of its services. It is likely that the new organigram of the ministry that still needs to be submitted to the parliament could feature a new service for the valorization and the sustainable management of non-wood forest products.

Organization of the Ministry

After several organizational changes, the Ministry of Water and Forests comprises the General Directorate for Water and Forests and the National School for Water and Forests (ENEF) based in Cap Esterias, north of Libreville:

Created in colonial times, ENEF main objective is to educate and train technical staff for the water and forest authority. The highest level of training is that of a technician for water and forests; in order to obtain the title of an engineer for water and forests, students have to attend a university abroad e.g. in France or Canada.

The General Directorate for Water and Forests consists of several technical directorates with the following tasks:

  • The Directorate for Forestry Production (DPF): Elaboration of forest management guidelines and control of their application, control of the forest production, monitoring of requests and the attribution of exploitation permits.
  • The Directorate for Inventories and Management of Forest Resources (DIARF): Elaboration of guidelines for the inventory and management of forests and their implementation, monitoring of the inventory and forest management and planning.
  • The Directorate for Timber Commercialization and Industries (DDICB): Management of industrial permits, monitoring of enterprises, transformation and commercialization of forest products.
  • The Directorate for Wildlife and Hunting (DFC): Elaboration of guidelines and monitoring of activities related to the management and conservation of wildlife, demarcation and management of protected areas.
  • The Directorate for Studies and Documentation (DED): Economic research and studies, centralization of statistical data from the different directorates and deconcentrated services, resolution of forest disputes, centralized collection of activity and progress reports.
  • The Directorate for Human Resources and Training (DPFO): Human resources management and planning, professional training of personnel.

last updated:  Tuesday, November 23, 2010