In Cameroon, sustainable timber management relies on the model of large logging concession. However, over the past fifteen years, small-scale logging has become a common activity, with two different forms. First, the creation of community forests in the late 1990s allowed village associations to legally harvest, process and trade timber, almost always with the support of external actors such as NGOs or private operators. Second, individual chainsaw milling, almost always informal, has grown considerably. The article compares the economic, social and environmental impacts of these two options of small-scale logging. Although much focus has been put on community forestry over the latest two decades, it remains a marginal activity with a turnover of less than € 2 million per year and a small impact on rural economies. Conversely, informal chainsaw milling represents an annual turnover of € 93 million, with a flow of revenues around € 30 million for the benefit of rural population. From an environmental perspective, none of the two options seems to substantially conserve or degrade forest resources, but more research is needed on the issue.
The chainsaw milling sector remains largely ignored by — national and international — public policies in the attempts to achieve sustainable timber management in Cameroon. Some perspectives are proposed to legalise the small-scale logging sector without reducing its current socio-economic impact on rural and urban livelihoods.