Curb illegal timber exports
Published On May 8, 2014 » 4369 Views» By Moses Kabaila Jr: Online Editor » Opinion
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TIMBERFOR a long time now, modest attention has been paid to monitoring how Zambia’s timber industry has been operating and how the country’s precious resource has been exiting our borders.
Zambia is endowed with the best trees in the world and most of it leaves the country illegally. Mukwa trees were in the past the most vulnerable trees which were being exported in most cases illegally by some traders.
Now, another type, the Mukula tree is on high demand on the international market and is being cut indiscriminately in most parts of the country by villagers who are selling it to traders who later on export the commodity.
What is worrying is the level at which this precious commodity is being ferried out of the country by traders arbitrarily contravening the law.
Two weeks ago, a combined team of security agencies in Chipata intercepted a truck laden with Mukula trees enroute to neighbouring Malawi.
The truck was laden with more than 1, 000 logs of the Mukula timber suspected to have been illegally cut in Vubwi District and was being transported to Mchinji District in Malawi without clearance.
Not long ago, Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Mwansa Kapeya with his team also impounded a truck laden with timber in Rufunsa which too was destined for exports.
It is abundantly clear that the country has once again been deprived of its natural resource in the form of timber which has mainly been exiting through our borders in the eastern direction.
It therefore, makes sad reading today that another assemblage of unscrupulous people in Serenje District is engaged in the illegal trade of the Mukula tree.
The scenario is even gloomier in the Serenje case as the District Commissioner, Charles Mwelwa states that the besieged Mukula tree in the area is headed for extinction.

Some unknown people are paying villagers to help cut down the trees, which they were transporting to Lusaka to allegedly sell to Chinese dealers.
The traders have taken advantage of the poor social conditions in the rural areas and are paying almost nothing in exchange of the precious trees.
It has been reported that the Mukula tree has high medicinal value which has triggered its demand on the international market.
Obviously, the illegal trade won’t end just now until all of the Mukula trees are no more in Zambia.
This is a wakeup call for the Forestry Department in all the districts to put up stringent measures to curb the illegal trade of this type of tree before it is too late.
The bells tolling in the Eastern and Central provinces of Zambia should send warning shots to other provinces on the need to tighten the nuts and make sure that Zambia’s timber is safe guarded.
Going by the recent happenings, it is very clear that these illegal traders are openly carrying out their activity with much ease. There is clearly a weak monitoring mechanism which is leading to the promotion of illegal trade in the sector.
The Forestry department is the custodian of Zambia’s timber or forests and it knows which areas are endowed with what type of trees and the amount of security required to safe guard the trees.
We therefore, urge the Forestry Department to work hand in hand with the Zambia Police and other Law enforcement agencies to mount road blocks in areas where the timber is being illegally cut in order to curb the vice.
Patrols in our forests should also intensify and all those found wanting should be brought to book.
Once the right checks are put in place, the illegal traders who have taken advantage of the loopholes will tone down and use the right channels to procure the commodity.
Ultimately, the Government and the Zambian people will get a fair share of their wealth through taxes which can later be directed towards improving other social amenities.

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