Cross-border illegal loggers put on notice
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the forest agencies of the two countries signed in April 2012 outlines cooperative measures to help improve the management of critical natural resources such as forests and wildlife in the two countries, and to increase the economic and livelihood benefits that such resources bring to the communities. This memorandum is now in operation with specific measures being put in place for implementation over the next one year.
Speaking during a workshop held in Dar es Salaam Tanzania last week to begin the implementation of the MOU, the Assistant Director of Policy and Planning – Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for Tanzania Mrs. Bertha Nyange noted that the operation of the MOU is timely considering that both countries continue to face challenges in finding appropriate ways to combat illegal activities in the forest sector.
“As we are all aware, the management of trans-boundary forest resources between two countries is facing a lot of challenges such as illegal trafficking of forest products resulting in loss of revenue, flora and fauna, including biodiversity and ecosystem degradation,” said Mrs. Nyange.
The memorandum of understanding between the National Directorate of Land and Forests of Mozambique (DNTF) and the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) of Tanzania (now Tanzania Forest Service Agency) outlines cooperative measures to help improve the management of critical natural resources such as forests and wildlife in the two countries, and to increase the economic and livelihood benefits that such resources bring to the communities.
Speaking at the same workshop, the Chief Executive of Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) Mr. Juma S. Mgoo noted that the implementation of the MOU would, over the next one-year, focus on trans-boundary collaboration on law enforcement to reduce illegal trade in forest resources such as timber.
“We are focusing on ensuring that we are carrying out law enforcement jointly and exchanging information of trade and harvesting operations between both countries. The purpose of this is to ensure that there is compliance on both sides where traders in Tanzania and Mozambique comply with our laws and regulations regarding the management and utilization of forest resources so that they are not depleted. This is the beginning and we hope that in five years, all the areas identified by the MOU will be fully implemented,” said Mr. Mgoo
On his part, the National Director of Land and Forests (DNTF) in Mozambique Mr. Simao Joaquim noted that the implementation of the MOU would help manage forest resources of both countries in a sustainable manner.
“This MOU is our part of effort to manage our forest resources in a more sustainable manner together with our counterparts in Tanzania. We have together agreed to put in place joint operations in law enforcement and to exchange relevant information on the process of export and exploration in both countries over the next one year. We expect that local communities will continue to participate and commit themselves to our efforts of law enforcement. Communities point out to us who are carrying out illegal activity in our forests and therefore participate in the process of implementing this MOU,” said Mr. Joaquim.
The coordinated efforts between Mozambique and Tanzania are expected to bring about significant strides in the management of forests, increasing benefits to the population of the two countries.
According to recent findings of a rapid assessment of illegal timber trade across the Ruvuma River on the Tanzania and Mozambique border by TRAFFIC and WWF, Tanzania alone is losing an estimated Tsh 6.8 billion (US$ 4.2 million) every year from illegal practices in the forestry sector from just the three southern Districts of Masasi, Tunduru and Nanyumbu.
The study further notes that businessmen are using fraudulent documents for example registrations, permits and license documents at the border, allowing them to pass through official checkpoints and bring timber to the Tanzanian market. These documents are written in Portuguese, which is not understood by most Tanzanian officials.
The implementation of the MOU is expected to help stem illegal activity and protect forests in Tanzania and Mozambique from heavy biodiversity related losses. The Forest Programme Coordinator for WWF in Tanzania, Isaac Malugu notes that the implementation of the agreement couldn’t have come at a better time and will help both governments recapture benefits lost to illegal activity in the forest sectors of Tanzania and Mozambique.
“We commend TFS and DNTF on reaching the implementation phase of this MOU which we believe will benefit the people of both countries and their forests. WWF and its partner TRAFFIC are committed to continued support to such trans-boundary collaboration on forest products trade in the region and to credible knowledge for decision making so as to ensure its sustainability,” said Mr. Malugu
The two countries have formed a joint committee to help with the implementation of the MOU that will be chaired by Tanzania and Mozambique forest directors on a rotational basis, starting with Mr. Mgoo of TFS.
By John Kabubu
WWF Coastal East Africa Communications