Illegal logging and trade with illegal timber and wood products are the cause of many economic and ecological problems both in producer and in consumer countries. Although legal instruments have been established to control logging and trade with illegally-sourced timber, practical control mechanisms to identify the species and the origin of timber and wood products are lacking. As a solution new methods are on the threshold of usability - DNA fingerprints and stable isotopes. These methods and their applications for timber tracking have advanced a lot during recent years. Based on experiences from pilot-studies in Cameroon and Latin-America we want to prepare an ITTO project proposal on the “Development and implementation of a species identification and timber tracking system in Africa with DNA fingerprints and stable isotopes”. The project fits well to the “ITTO Thematic Programme on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (TFLET)”, which explicitly states that projects focused on the “implementation of timber-tracking systems” could be supported. The plan is to develop a regional project focussing on the timber producing countries Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Dem. Rep, Congo Rep. and Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya as an important timber transit country. The expected outputs of the final project are: (a) a timber tracking system with DNA and stable isotopes working for 5 important timber species in Africa, (b) reference databases on genetic and isotopic spatial patterns ready for control uses, and (c) facilities for DNA-fingerprinting and stable isotopes with trained staff in timber producer and timber consumer countries.
The preparation of such a multi-national project proposal is challenging. Thus a seven month pre-project phase is needed for (a) to define the role and contribution of collaborating agencies (b) to seek support and agreements with the governments of African countries involved in the project; (c) to draw conclusions from former pilot studies and to define the technical work plan, (d) for the identification of stakeholders and definition of their roles in the project; and (f) to seek additional financial support for the project.