Conservation news

5 African countries agree to combat illegal timber trade

  • The governments of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique have agreed to work together to combat the illegal timber trade.
  • Signatories include both timber source and transit countries.
  • Data released Monday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that primary forest cover in sub-Saharan Africa declined by at least 6.3 million hectares over the past decade

The governments of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique have agreed to work together to combat the illegal timber trade that is plaguing East and Southern Africa, reports WWF.

The declaration, signed today at the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban South Africa, takes aim at the burgeoning trade in illegal timber in the region. Madagascar, Mozambique, and Central African countries are generally the source of illicit timber, while Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania are major transit points through which contraband is sent to overseas markets. Mozambique is both a source and transit country.

“We declare that we need a unifying strategy to help Eastern and Southern Africa countries to curb illegal trade in timber,” stated the declaration. “[We] recommend the SADC and East African Community member states to collaborate and cooperate on regional efforts to curb illegal timber trade [and] urge the member states countries to promote cooperation among their national forest agencies in information and intelligence sharing related to illegal trade across the region.”

The declaration further asked member states to develop monitoring and reporting systems for their respective timber industries as well as implement bans on log exports.

Illegal logging in Madagascar’s Masoala Peninsula, a protected area where rosewood is commonly targeted. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Beyond those measures, the declaration urged upcoming summits involving chief consumer countries — including China, India, and European and Middle Eastern nations — to “include the issue of illegal timber as a priority agenda item”.

The Zanzibar Declaration was applauded by WWF, which together with TRAFFIC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), worked to broker the deal.

“WWF welcomes the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and Other Forest Products, the first such agreement of its kind in the region. The declaration comes at a crucial time. Illegal trade in timber is expanding at an alarming rate and this new commitment by governments will greatly amplify efforts to reduce such trade at the regional level,” said Geofrey Mwanjela, WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative Head of Terrestrial Program, in a statement.

FAO forest cover data for the five countries that signed the Zanzibar Declaration.

Data released Monday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that at least 6.3 million hectares of primary forest cover in sub-Saharan Africa was degraded over the past decade. Some of that would have been the result of selective logging, especially in Central African countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic, which combined reported an annual loss of more than 500,000 ha of primary forest.

WWF says that East Africa is likely to be one of the world’s deforestation hotspots over the next 20 years.