- Uganda has announced a ban on timber exports, but environmentalists warn deforestation is driven by other activities, mostly agribusiness.
- Kenya’s president lifts a ban on logging in state and community forests, raising fears forest loss will accelerate.
- Understaffed authorities are struggling to curb deforestation in the Angolan municipality of Nambuangongo, where felling trees for farmland is seen as a culturally sanctioned tradition.
- Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of news from Africa’s forests.
Uganda announces ban on timber exports
KAMPALA — The Ugandan government has banned the export of timber from the East African country. In a directive issued at the end of June, President Yoweri Museveni pointed to indiscriminate harvesting of public and private forests across the country under pretext of exporting timber, and revoked all licenses and permits issued for this purpose.
Environmental activist Eddie Mukiibi told Mongabay he supports the decision. He said that the country’s forest management agency is failing to regulate a growing timber industry.
“The sad reality is that National Forestry Authority is involved in giving out land in former natural forest for pine and eucalyptus growing for export and the EU-funded Sawlog Production Grant propelled this impact,” Mukiibi said.
Mukiibi, who is the president of Slow Food International and an agroecological farmer, said that while the ban is a start, timber exports are not the leading cause of deforestation in the country. “President Museveni should also know that the leading cause of deforestation of natural forests in Uganda is the extension of monocultural sugarcane plantations. A case of Mabira and Bugoma forests, these are not cleared for timber export. They have been massively cleared for sugarcane growing and sugar exports. The timber is a byproduct of agribusiness-based deforestation.”
From 2002 to 2022, Uganda lost 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of humid primary forest, according to forest monitoring group Global Forest Watch.
Kenya’s president lifts logging ban
Edwin Muinga, chair of environmental organization Clean Mombasa, says the lifting of a logging ban in Kenya by president William Ruto on July 2 will reverse gains made with environmental protection. According to Global Forest Watch, Kenya lost 11% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2022 — 375,000 hectares (927,000 acres). Around 50,000 hectares of this was primary forest.
Muinga said a previous government imposed the logging ban in response to the impacts of extensive logging in Kenya’s Rift Valley region which had impacted negatively on water catchment areas.
He said lifting the ban could well be taken as a blanket statement allowing people to enter any forest and cut trees at will, placing the country’s forests and wildlife at risk.
“We just came from drought seasons where the rains disappeared and there was hunger all over everywhere. Now, when we are just recovering, we are ordering trees to be cut. We recommend to the president to rescind the decision and if necessary restructure it so that it should not be a blanket ticket to save forest cover.”
Logging in Kenya did not cease entirely during the six-year ban. While carpenters and timber merchant imported timber from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, wood for charcoal — which makes up a large share of Kenya’s timber needs — continued to be cut down in areas like Malindi in Kilifi County on the Kenyan coast.
From Global Forest Watch data, it’s not clear that the logging ban had a significant impact on overall tree cover loss.
Muinga and others say there should be public participation before a decision on lifting the logging ban is taken.
“We feel that this is a wrong argument and our advice is to look seriously on logging business and to consider negative effects on Kenyans who had already adopted the President’s clarion call of planting 15 billion trees. So when people start planting and then others start cutting them then you may interfere with their morale.”
Understaffed authorities struggle to curb deforestation in Angola
NAMBUANGONGO, Angola — Farmers and loggers in the municipality of Nambuangongo, in the northwestern province of Bengo, are claiming 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres) of forest each year. Between 2000 and 2020, tree cover declined by 12% according to Global Forest Watch, and a quarter of that loss was primary rainforest.
Nambuangongo is a 240-kilometer (150-mile) drive from Luanda, the Angolan capital; it covers 560,000 hectares (1.38 million acres), largely forested. The majority of inhabitants rely on the forest for their livelihoods.
The municipal director of agriculture, Sebastião Andrade, said it’s difficult to convince local communities that clearing forest to make way for farms will have harmful consequences. Farmers respond that they’re using the land as their ancestors did before them.
“It is an inadvisable practice, taking into account the devastation of the fauna and flora, but, even so, these are the rudimentary methods that families find to be able to increase agricultural production,” he told Mongabay
But Nambuangongo’s forests are also under pressure from commercial logging by both registered and unlicensed timber companies.
Understaffed and poorly equipped, the municipality’s forestry inspectors are no longer monitoring tree felling or fire damage.
Lopes António João, who oversees these inspectors, said citizens cut down trees and use fire to clear new farmland in the forest to sustain themselves. He told Mongabay that his office is working to explain which tree species should be preserved.
Local authorities are asking for additional support from the provincial department of the Institute for Forestry Development, the branch of the agriculture ministry that coordinates the timber industry.
Lopes said logging is also seen as a culturally sanctioned practice. He recommended it be allowed to continue, but with guidelines to protect the health of the forest.
Antónia Gonçalo, Diana Wanyonyi and Lucky Agaba contributed to this bulletin.
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