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Forest Law and Governance: Film

Putting down roots: The forest communities fighting climate change

We live in a world where our attention spans are getting shorter and the demands on it are getting bigger.

A world in which we’re bombarded with short films - often with shocking messages - that have been cut so fast that if you blink you’ll miss them.

Putting Down Roots is different.

At 15 minutes, it’s longer than most campaigning films, and rather than highlighting what’s wrong with the world, it focuses on people who are making it better.

From the remote Scottish coast to the foothills of the Himalayas and the Xingu basin in the Amazon, a grassroots revolution is unfolding in which communities are restoring diverse forests to areas which were once stripped of their trees.

The benefits are manifold: community-led forest restoration is bolstering rural people’s livelihoods, stemming biodiversity loss and helping in the fight against climate change.

The stories in this film – and its central message, which is underpinned by powerful evidence – show how stopping deforestation and restoring forests prevents emissions, removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and transforms lives.

If we are to achieve the aim of the Paris Agreement and limit warming to 1.5 degrees, then it’s a message which needs to be heard. And one which is worth 15 minutes of anyone’s time.

For additional information read our report Return of the Trees.

How FLEGT is making a difference in the CAR

The new transitional government of the Central African Republic is in the process of drafting a new constitution, and, for the first time, many forest communities have been consulted about their country’s future. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the CAR and the EU is one of the tools that has been used by civil society actors to make their voices heard.

The Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on Earth, and holds up to 25% of the world's forest-based carbon. Unchecked deforestation in the region here not only threatens the livelihoods of over 70 million people, it could also have a devastating impact on the planet’s climate.

Timber production provides a significant form of revenue for the Central African Republic (CAR). But regulating the timber industry there has been far from easy.

As the CAR prepares a new constitution, campaigners believe this as a great opportunity to strengthen the country’s forest governance.

Thanks to the work of NGOs, including Fern’s local partners, this was the first time many forest communities had been consulted about the future of their country.

One of the tools used by campaigners as leverage is the timber trade agreement being negotiated with the EU. Known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), its legally binding provisions have helped put forest governance high on the political agenda and enabled civil society participation in forest reform processes.

The VPAs are a key element of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process, which aims to improve forest governance and strengthen tenure rights of local communities, as well as controlling the import of illegal timber in the EU.

Introducing FLEGT

This short film introduces FLEGT, the EU’s flagship forest policy, which Fern believes is the most effective vehicle to combat illegal logging and deforestation, and ensuring that the world’s tropical forests are managed fairly

Robinson Djeukam Njinga Memorial

On 19 August 2015 our dear friend and colleague, Robinson Djeukam Njinga, an environmental and social justice lawyer and activist in Cameroon, passed away suddenly in a hospital in Yaoundé. With his passing, Fern and many others working on forests, have lost an esteemed ally. Robinson’s warmth, dedication, engagement and professionalism will be in our memories forever.

For more than 20 years Robinson was a leading advocate, combating illegal logging and promoting forest governance and community rights in Cameroon, as well as the entire Congo Basin region. He was a valued civil society actor in the African region and an active member of the African Community Rights Network (ACRN) since its creation in 2008.

For a decade Robinson worked with the CED (Centre for Environmental Development) and trained the first cohort of young lawyers offering legal services directly to communities in Cameroon. As a legal expert he contributed greatly to legal reforms in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. In 2011 he co-founded Green Development Advocates (GDA), an organisation focusing on social and economic rights in the Congo Basin, and remained its director. until the end. Our thoughts are with his wife, Rose, his children and his beloved friends and colleagues. To express condolences, please send a message to

A chance for change in the Congolese forests

The tropical rainforests covering vast tracts of the Republic of Congo (RoC) are being chopped down at a startling rate. As they vanish, the people living in them fall deeper into poverty and global climate change accelerates. There is hope that an innovative yet little-known trade agreement between the RoC and the European Union (EU) to export timber products will help halt the tide of destruction and improve the lives of the forests’ inhabitants.

In 2010 the EU and the Republic of Congo signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a legally-binding deal recognising the rights of forest communities and outlawing illegally sourced timber. The agreement is one of several that the EU has either signed or is negotiating with timber producing countries in Africa, Asia and South America under its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. If successful, these agreements will revolutionise how the world’s largest tropical rainforests are run.

In the RoC, implementation of the VPA has led to civil society being involved in reform of the country’s forest code, which will give them a say in how the forests are run for the first time. This is a remarkable achievement in a nation where the voices of civil society are not usually heard.


Most recent publications

Achieving the 1.5 Target with Forests: What Role for the EU? - Panel event

Latests developments provided an important opportunity for Fern and its partners to invite EU representatives, experts and civil society to our panel event on 7 March 2018, "Achieving the 1.5° Target with Forests: What Role for the EU?" chaired by MEPs Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA) and Carlos Zorrinho (S&D). The event discussed the Commission workplan priorities, reiterated the relevance and impact of the VPAs, encouraged EU institutions and Member States to integrate FLEGT principles and forests into relevant climate interventions, and raised the importance of restoring degraded forest ecosystems by working closely with local communities.

Nepal shows how forest restoration can help people, biodiversity and the climate

by Hanna Aho

A revolution is unfolding in the foothills of the Himalayas: trees are coming back to areas run by communities.

Over the past quarter century, the foothills of the Himalayas have seen a radical transformation. A pattern of destruction that unfolded over decades is steadily but irresistibly being reversed.

Cameroonian women are the first victims of palm oil plantations

By Laurence WETE SOH

In Cameroon, the national women's day will focus on “intensifying efforts to combat discrimination against women and strengthening the partnership for sustainable development”. My NGO Foder took advantage of the media spotlight to report the violence and abuses faced by women living in the surroundings or inside large monoculture plantations.

VPAs and NDCs: Sharing the Toolbox? – How lessons learned from EU FLEGT can be put to work for the Paris Agreement

As the Paris Agreement is ratified by each of its signatory states, they commit to put into action their specific national plans to combat climate change. These plans are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).

PDF iconVPAs and NDCs.pdf2.89 MB

What role do forests and governance play in countries’ nationally determined contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement?

This study analyses the correlation between forest governance and deforestation, and aims to improve national understanding of the challenges involved in land-use governance. The multistakeholder Voluntary Partnership Agreement process has created an unprecedented opportunity for dialogue on improving transparency and accountability in the forestry sector.

PDF iconfern_cameroon_eng.pdf2.22 MB