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The East African : July 14th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JULY 12-18,2014 the main destinations for illegal timber from Africa. China’s wood industry depends on imports for almost 50 per cent of its timber supply. Apart from China, the Euro- pean Union and the US are also major consumers of tropical timber, some of which originate in Eastern Africa. Data from the European Un- ion Statistics Agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation and International Tropical Timber Organisation shows that the EU imports between 133 million and 385 million cubic metres round wood equivalent of wood products, every year, while the US buys an average of 72 million cubic metres. Apart from illegal logging, charcoal burning is another business depleting East Africa’s forests, though in most cases confined within local borders. According to Unep data, 90 EFFECTS OF THE TRADE The illegal timber trade is worth between $30 and $100 billion annually and at stake is: Loss of livelihoods for local communities who depend on forests for a living. Extinction of both flora and fauna the consignment had originated from Madagascar. The illegal rosewood smug- gled from East Africa to Asia is used for making furniture, guitars, luxury floorings and marimbas among others. According to Unep, the price of high-end rosewood has been on the rise since 2006. In 2005, for example, D. odorifera, one of the species of rosewood, was available on the ordinary market at a price below at $15,000 per cubic metres. The price, however, rose to over $100,000 in 2006, $500,000 in 2007 and is now around $1.5 million per cubic metre. “The 2012 price of D. cochinch- inensis (another species of Rrosewood) $15,000, was 15 times higher than its price in 2005,” says the environment organisation. The East African ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam have been used in the past as transit points for the smuggled rosewood. The general pattern shows that illegal wood resources have considerably more monetary value than wildlife. This is because, according to conservationists, the trade carries much lower risk, as the wood is often not considered contraband. “It is easily mixed with le- gal products during transport, transported in the open, and there is virtually no frontline protection or Customs risk – but very high profit,” says Unep. Studies by Unep, Interpol and other conservation organisations show that China is one of Endangered forests, some of them found in East Africa. Threat to national economies . Climate change emanating from emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Emissions are blamed for global warming. Major drivers of ithe trade Corruption at the national and local level. This is still a common problem in East Africa where public officials collude with those involved in environmental crimes. Lack of adequate legislation targeting environmental crimes at national level. Environmental crimes in East Africa and others parts of the world are still considered petty crimes. Corporate crime at both national and international level, where big companies dealing in timber encourage forest destruction for their own gains. Conflict at the national and international level. Illegal timber trade and other environmental crimes are currently being used to fund terrorist and militia groups destabilising parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Increasing demand for timber both at the national and international level is driving the world’s tropical forests towards extinction. per cent of wood consumed in Africa is used for woodfuel and charcoal. Africa produced 30.6 million tonnes of charcoal in 2012, worth between $6.1 billion and $24.5 billion annually at the point of sale. Charcoal in Kenya “The total export number for Africa is only 1.4 per cent of production. Such a low figure is unrealistically small, considering key importance of charcoal in African local energy consumption and its related widespread trade,” the Environment Crimes report adds. In Kenya, for example, char- coal provides energy for 82 per cent of urban and 34 per cent of rural households. Official data from Unep shows the annual consumption is between 1 million and 1.6 million tonnes for 40 million citizens. There are about 18.4 million consumers in the country who use 70 kg charcoal each per year. This figure is higher than in Madagascar, where 85 per cent of the 22.3 million population rely on charcoal, consuming 63 kg each per year, of the 1.19 million tonnes produced annually. The above figures are worry- ing, given the fact that East Africa’s population is expected to continue increasing, meaning that demand for charcoal will not decline anytime in the near future. While official exports from East Africa amount to only a few truckloads annually, observations by Rapid Response Unit team in the region revealed a high number of trucks are used to gather charcoal bags near protected areas at night, as well as cross-border points such as Tanzania-Kenya and previously between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Safeguarding the world’s for- Workers in a forest in Congo. Some timber that comes into Kenya is from Congo Pic: AFP ests is not just the most cost-effective way to mitigate climate change: well-managed forests also generate multitrillion dollar services such as reliable water flow, clean air, sustainable timber products, soil stabilisation and nutrient recycling,” said Mr Steiner. 37 Sandalwood is the most common export from Kenya Picture: File Kenya-Tanzania popula≥ ≥oute fo≥ illegal logge≥s By JEFF OTIENO Special Correspondent ONE OF the most active transit routes for illegal forest products in East Africa is the Kenya-Tanzania border. A recent study by the Tanza- nia Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) and the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) identified the Holili-Taveta and Horohoro-Lunga border points as the main transit routes for the products. The Horohoro-Lunga border was found to be the main entry point for timber, charcoal and wood for carvings, while HoliliTaveta border point was used to smuggle poles. “Some of the trade is illegal as it is either not accounted for, or crosses borders by unregulated and unofficial routes,” says the study titled “The Trade in Forest Products between Kenya and Tanzania.” Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary, Prof Judi Wakhungu, conceded East African countries are facing a major challenge in fighting complex environmental crimes, but added that the member states will do their utmost best to tackle the menace. “Illegal trade in flora and fau- na is a major challenge in the region given its sophisticatio, but we believe through cooperation among member states we will succeed in protecting our resources,” added Prof Wakhungu. The study found that ille- gal traders falsify documents, undervalue their products or use unofficial routes to evade inspection and taxation both in Kenya and Tanzania. Information gathered from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) indicated that sandalwood and other valuable wood products from Kenya (especially those falling under presidential decree) are sometimes transported in oil tankers to Tanzania. However, conservationists concede that it is difficult to monitor the trade in the region as the harvesting of the tree is banned in Kenya but a sandalwood factory is licensed to oper- ate in Tanzania. The illegal forest products, the study found, were transported on trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, handcarts and donkeys. To effectively tackle the trade and ensure the region’s forest is protected, Michael Gachanja, the executive director of EAWLS, said East African Community member states need to harmonise their environmental laws. “Currently our laws are dis- jointed, each country operating its own set of rules and regulations. This makes the fight against environmental crimes difficult. Harmonisation of laws will also help enforcement efforts,” said Mr Gachanja. The EAWLS executive direc- tor’s sentiments are supported by Unep, which says environmental crimes have remained a threat due to modest enforcement measures and lack or inadequate investigative capacity. Frontline rangers “Prosecution and sentences for environmental crime often reflect petty crimes or minor offences and too often they are limited to low-level impoverished criminals,” said Unep in its Environmental Crimes Crisis Report. In some places the trade has thrived because of lack of personnel to effectively police protected areas. In many African countries, for example, there are still very few rangers on the ground, who are paid poorly and work under harsh conditions. According to Unep, over 1,000 rangers are killed annually in service in Africa, Latin America and Asia, while on duty protecting some of the world’s priceless natural resources. Increasing the presence of frontline rangers and improving their welfare will not only check the increase in environmental crimes, but also reduce the negative impacts on tourism and the welfare of the local population. “An effective response to envi- ronmental crime must therefore include both good governance and enforcement efforts, both in the short and long-term,” adds Unep.
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