- Uganda has announced a ban on the export of logs, but environmentalists warn that deforestation is being driven by other activities, mostly agribusiness.
- Kenya’s president has lifted a ban on logging in state and community forests, raising fears that deforestation will accelerate.
- Authorities are struggling to stop deforestation in the Angolan town of Nambuangongo, where cutting down trees for agriculture is considered a culturally sanctioned tradition.
- Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s biweekly bulletin on news from Africa’s forests.
Uganda has announced a 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 targeted the indiscriminate harvesting of public and private forests throughout the country under the pretext of exporting timber, and revoked all licenses and permit issued for this purpose.
Environmental activist Eddie Mukiibi told Mongabay that he supports the decision. He said the country’s forest management agency has failed to regulate the growing timber industry.
“The sad fact is that the National Forestry Authority is involved in providing land in former natural forests for pine and eucalyptus to be grown for export and the EU-funded Sawlog Production Grant is driving this effect,” said Mukiibi.
Mukiibi, who is the president of Slow Food International and an agroecological farmer, said that while the ban is a start, the export of logs is not the main cause of deforestation in the country. “President Museveni should also know that the main cause of the destruction of natural forests in Uganda is the expansion of monocultural sugarcane plantations. A case of Mabira and Bugoma forests, they have not been cleared for to export timber. Many of them have been cleared for sugarcane growing and sugar export. The timber is the result of agribusiness-based deforestation.”
From 2002 to 2022, Uganda will lose 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of humid primary forest, according to forest monitoring group Global Forest Watch.
Kenyan president lifts logging ban
Edwin Muinga, chair of the environmental organization Clean Mombasa says that the lifting of the logging ban in Kenya by president William Ruto on July 2 will reverse the gains made in environmental protection. According to Global Forest Watch, Kenya will lose 11% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2022 — 375,000 hectares (927,000 acres). About 50,000 hectares of it is primary forest.
Muinga said the previous government imposed the logging ban in response to the effects of extensive logging in Kenya’s Rift Valley region which negatively affected water catchment areas.
He said lifting the ban could be taken as a blanket statement allowing people to enter any forest and cut trees at will, putting the country’s forests and wildlife at risk.
“We have just come from a period of drought where the rains disappeared and there was hunger everywhere. Now, when we just recovered, we ordered to cut down the trees. We recommend to the president to cancel the decision and if necessary restructure it so that it is not a blanket ticket to save the forest.”
Logging in Kenya has not been completely stopped by the six-year ban. While carpenters and timber traders import wood from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, wood for charcoal – which makes up a large part of Kenya’s wood requirements – continues to be cut places like Malindi in Kilifi County on the Kenyan coast.
From Global Forest Watch data, it is not clear that the logging ban will have a significant impact on the overall loss of tree cover.
Muinga and others say there should be public participation before a decision is taken to lift the logging ban.
“We feel this is a false argument and our advice is to look seriously at the logging business and consider the negative impacts on Kenyans who have already heeded the President’s clarion call to plant 15 billion trees. So if people start planting and then others start cutting them down, you can disrupt their morale.
Understaffed authorities are struggling to curb deforestation in Angola
NAMBUANGONGO, Angola — Farmers and loggers in the town of Nambuangongo, in the northwestern province of Bengo, claim 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 hectares) of forest each year. Between 2000 and 2020, tree cover will decrease by 12% according to Global Forest Watch, and a quarter of the loss will be primary rainforest.
Nambuangongo is a 240-kilometer (150-mile) drive from Luanda, the capital of Angola; it covers 560,000 hectares (1.38 million acres), mostly forest. Most of the inhabitants depend on the forest for their livelihood.
The municipal director of agriculture, Sebastião Andrade, said it was difficult to convince local communities that clearing forests to make way for farms would have disastrous consequences. The farmers replied that they were using the land as their ancestors had done in the past.
“This is a bad practice, considering the destruction of fauna and flora, but, nevertheless, these are the basic methods that families have found to be able to increase agricultural production,” he told Mongabay .
But Nambuangongo’s forests are also under pressure from commercial logging by registered and unlicensed timber companies.
Understaffed and poorly equipped, municipal forest inspectors no longer monitor logging or fire damage.
Lopes António João, who supervises these inspectors, said that the citizens cut down trees and use fire to clear new forest farms to sustain themselves. He told Mongabay that his office is working to define which types of trees should be preserved.
Local authorities are asking for more support from the provincial department of the Institute for Forestry Development, the branch of the ministry of agriculture that coordinates the wood industry.
Lopes said that cutting down trees is also seen as a culturally sanctioned practice. He recommends allowing it to continue, but with guidelines to protect the health of the forest.
Banner image: Ugandan logger marking a felled tree in Hoima District. Image by Pius Talemwa via Wikimedia Commons.
Antonia Goncalo, Diana Wanyonyi and Lucky Agaba contributed to this bulletin.
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