Regional timber trade forum set for Zanzibar
This year’s Forum will address growing domestic demand for timber in the region along with growing intra-regional and inter-regional illegal trade of timber and other forest products flowing across mainland Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to WWF Head of Terrestrial Programme Geofrey Mwanjela, the forum comes at a time when there is increasing involvement in illegal timber trade across several countries in Africa leading to losses amounting to billions of dollars each year.
“Illegal trade in timber represents a significant loss in local and national revenues, with estimates for the continent as a whole indicating loses of over $17 billion per year. In the eastern Africa region the illegal timber trade is also a driver of environmental degradation. What is needed to reverse these negative impacts is better knowledge of how the illegal trade functions at various scales, improved law enforcement and positive incentives for a legal and sustainable trade,” said Mr. Mwanjela.
The forum will further focus on the need for a coordinated inter-regional approach that seeks to forge cooperation and effective communication amongst national forest agencies in Tanzania mainland, Zanzibar, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar. The mechanisms will also seek to build relations between national forest agencies and regional bodies such as the Southern Africa Development Commission (SADC) and East African Community (EAC).
Mr. Mwanjela notes that the forum will provide opportunities for information and idea exchange on the shifting dynamics of illegal timber trade in Africa.
“This Forum will provide an opportunity for government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to meet and exchange ideas and information on the ever-changing dynamics of illegal and unsustainable timber trade in East Africa,” says Mr. Mwanjela.
Zanzibar Department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Resources Director Dr. Sheha Idrisa Hamdan notes that Zanzibar’s involvement in the forum serves to contribute towards charting a course heading towards the reduction of illegal trade in timber.
“This year’s forum will set a good roadmap for Zanzibar to be part of the regional discussions and action plan on reducing illegal trade on timber. We look forward to working closely with all the forest authorities and other institutions across the region to curb the illegal trade,” says Dr. Sheha Hamdan.
In 2014, the Forum drew over 40 participants that reviewed research findings and identified key actions to improve timber trade controls in the sub-region. This year’s forum is set to increase the number of participants to over 50 in order to adequately address several issues that serve to fuel illegal trade in timber and how these can be addressed.
By John Kabubu - Communications Manager WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative