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Illegal Logging Costs Mozambique, Other Countries

  • Pamela Dockins

A new report says illegal logging has resulted in a loss of millions of dollars of potential revenue in Mozambique, one of the world's least-developed countries. A London-based NGO says Mozambique's plight is part of a global problem.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says up to 48 percent of timber exported from Mozambique to China may be illegal.

A February EIA report says illegal harvests may have cost the cash-strapped African nation $30 million in lost state revenues in 2012.

EIA forest analyst Chris Moye says officials in both countries are at fault.

"Chinese companies are knowingly breaking the laws, including producing fraudulent documentation which lies about the shipments that they are in fact sending over to China," said Moye. "And, they are able to do that because they have political patronage."

In Mozambique, Vanessa Cabanelas, a technical advisor for the group Environmental Justice, says the EIA findings come as no surprise.

"The situation is really bad and the way it is going, I do no know for how long it will be bad but it will end eventually with no wood," said Cabanelas.

She says Mozambique's government does not have the means and the power to deal with the magnitude of the issue.

It is not just a problem for Mozambique. Kerry Cesareo of the World Wildlife Fund says illegal logging is a global problem.

"Some of the top countries where we see a very high estimated rate of illegal harvest would include Russia, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and I would probably add Bolivia, Ghana and Cameroon," said Cesareo.

She says the problem is fueled by an increasing demand for wood and wood products coupled with weak enforcement of logging regulations and corruption.

"So you have strong demand that may drive illegal harvesting on the ground and sometimes there is a blind eye being turned, or there is just inadequate capacity to control the forestry service and enforce existing laws related to forest management," Cesareo said .

Those existing laws include regulations against importing illegal timber as well as laws against trading timber harvested illegally.

Secretary-General Ben Gunneberg heads the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the world's largest forest certification program. The group works with countries to help keep logging at a sustainable level. He says the governments of some of the countries hit hard by illegal logging are working with international regulators.

"Those are the negotiations that have been taking place in some of the countries, and by no means all of the countries, where the issues are fairly major," said Gunneberg.

He says forest management is key because about 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihood to some degree.