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America Investing in Cameroon

Investing in Cameroon – Taylor-Madinter

Taylor-Madinter

Ebony mill located outside of Yaounde, Cameroon. [Taylor-Madinter Photo]

Taylor-Madinter

Sample guitar with the fretboard (fingerboard) made of Cameroonian ebony and the back and sides made of Cameroonian Sapele wood. [Taylor-Madinter Photo]

In late 2011, Taylor Guitars, a leading manufacturer of acoustic and electric guitars, and Madinter Trade, S.L., an international distributor of guitar parts and tonewoods used to make musical instruments, partnered to purchase Crelicam, an ebony mill located outside of Yaounde, Cameroon. The newly formed company, Taylor-Madinter, shares a vision for the procurement and milling of ebony, one that brings both investment and enrichment to the local community and sustainable, ethical practices in harvesting ebony.  

Ebony has long been a highly sought-after wood among musical instrument manufacturers for its aesthetic and tonal properties, as well as its strength, and is used for components such as instrument fretboards. As a result of market demands, poor economic conditions, and lack of legal governance, ebony historically has been procured at a devalued market rate. Such factors have led to depressed economic conditions for suppliers and created an environment of irresponsible procurement. This, in turn, has led to low worker wages and quality of life, as well as increased tension among communities over ownership rights.

Under the new Taylor-Madinter partnership, significant investment has been made to improve the harvesting and milling processes within Cameroon, keeping useful labor skills in country and returning the investment to the local community for the mill’s 75 employees. In the next few years, the company plans to add machinery and increase the value-added processes to be completed in Cameroon. This will help grow the local labor base, which is in line with the company’s belief that the Cameroonian people should reap the benefit of supplying wood from Cameroon, for Cameroon.

By changing the story of how ebony is harvested from the forest and processed at the mill, Taylor-Madinter will be able to help Cameroonians safeguard their future by instituting sustainable and ethical procurement processes. The company is in full compliance with timber laws, such as the United States Lacey Act and the European Union’s Forestry Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade.

For the mill workers of Crelicam, many of whom support their extended families, significant steps are being taken to ensure a hazard-free work environment and provide job training to increase the value of the goods exported. To date, Taylor-Madinter has added fresh water for bathing and improved working conditions, as the company operates in alignment with U.S. Labor laws. Increased financial compensation remains a priority. At the beginning of 2012, each mill worker received a bonus check; over the course of the year they will receive a pay increase to double their annual salary.

While significant improvements have been made with Crelicam, Taylor-Madinter looks forward to continuing to offer a sustainable ebony product, increasing the investment back into Cameroon, and employing a world-class workforce with the necessary skills to create value-added goods. Additional updates will be available in the months to come. 

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