Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is a natural resource-rich and scenic nation located in West Central Africa. With its climate categorized as equatorial tropical, 22.8 million hectares – or 88 per cent – of the region is blanketed with a voluminous rainforest system.
While its economy depends on oil for an estimated 50 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), exports of the timber and quality wood found in the country make up about 6 per cent of its Gross National Product (GNP).
Gabon has some 12.5 million hectares of available woodland for logging along with upwards of 400 species of wood. There are three main forest types found in the country: Covering most of the nation, the central Gabonese forest boasting plenty of varieties like the Ayous and Azobe. The west evergreen rainforest is home to a bounty of Akoume and Ozigo. In the semi-deciduous forests, Ayous, Limba and Wenge grow in profusion. All forests and woodlands are possessed by the nation.
With a total land area of 267,667km² and an estimated population of 1.5 million people as of 2009 with around 60 per cent – over half the population residing in the metropolises – there is little human interference and pressure on the forests. In 2008, Gabon’s annual deforestation rate was a mere 0.12 per cent. Though the rate of deforestation is low, reforestation is constantly endorsed and encouraged. The timber industry in Gabon is currently the largest employer in the private sector – it employs 28%, nearly a third, of the total working population – and stands to grow in significantly large proportions.
However, the last decade saw Gabon undergo an intense process and number of reforms concerning the environment and forests. Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the new method of approach to the country’s afforestation.
Presently, Gabon supplies 90 per cent of the Okoume – from which plywood is produced – found worldwide.