Kenya has suspended logging in all forests for the next three months as water levels in major rivers continue to drop at alarming levels. Many African countries have enacted log export ban policies to protect forests or to bolster their domestic timber industry. Below are some of the countries in the forefront of banning timber exports, product scope of the ban and current state of the ban, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
1. Côte d’Ivoire
Forests cover about 30 per cent of the land area of Côte d’Ivoire. During the 1960s and 1970s, the forest sector was of major economic importance to the country.
However, the country’s forest resources have been heavily impacted by logging over the last 50 years, and only two per cent of the country is now covered by primary forest. There has been widespread illegal logging in the country, and the illegal timber trade provided a source of finance for armed groups during the civil war.
Eighty five per cent of the country’s land area is covered by forests, a figure that has stayed constant over the past 20 years. However, the area of primary forest has been decreasing, and this is currently estimated to represent just over half of the total forest area.
Gabon’s forests are entirely State-owned, and about half of the country’s forests are allocated for production. Before the log export ban, Gabon was Africa’s main timber supplier to China. Since it decided to ban round wood exports to promote more domestic processing this has directly affected its exports to Asia.
Forests cover approximately one fifth of Ghana’s total land area. The forest sector makes an important, but declining, contribution to the country’s economy.
Ghana has experienced a high rate of deforestation (more than two per cent) for the past two decades, and wood-balance estimates indicate that timber consumption considerably exceeds sustainable harvesting levels. The country is currently implementing a national timber tracking system for the control, verification and licensing of legal timber.
About 20 per cent of the country’s land is forested, just under a quarter of which is primary forest. The country has experienced a high rate of deforestation over the past few decades. Between 1990 and 2015 the average annual rate of deforestation was 0.4 per cent.
Nearly 40 per cent of Madagascar’s remaining forests are designated protected areas. While there is a decree in place to ban all harvest and export of precious woods, illegal shipments continue.
The country has one of Africa’s highest rates of deforestation alongside Zambia. About 50 per cent of its land area is forested. None of the country’s primary forests remain. The annual rate of deforestation for the period 2010 to 15 was 0.5 per cent.
There is widespread illegal logging in the country. In 2013, it was estimated that nearly half of the country’s timber exports to China were illegal. The cross-border smuggling of illegal timber between Mozambique and Tanzania is also a problem.
In 2012, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at improving management of forest and wildlife resources, including through improved co-operation on law enforcement to reduce the trade in illegal timber.
Less than 10 per cent of the country’s land is covered by forests, and only 20,000 hectares of the primary forests remain. There have been high rates of deforestation in the country; the annual rate was 5 per cent between 2010 and 2015.
Although the Federal Ministry of Environment has acknowledged that the country risks massive deforestation if it does not control the way and manner woods are cut and exported to other countries, the country has been engaged in on and off bans on such timber exports.
More than 40 per cent of Cameroon is covered by dense rainforest, constituting a significant part of the Congo Basin forest ecosystem. The annual rate of deforestation was just over one per cent for the period 2010 to15.
Illegal logging has long been recognised as a significant problem in the country. The government has taken a number of steps to curb illegality in the sector.
The country in 2016 announced a ban on importing timber after years of accusations from neighbouring Senegal that it profits from illegal logging across their border.
Gambian loggers have long benefited from lax oversight of Senegal’s southern Casamance forest to take prized rosewood timber over the border before exporting the logs to China. The ban on the importation of logs into the country is being enforced following a presidential decree on the topic.
The country banned the export of logs from all tree species and now only gives export permits for processed or sawn wood, saying it wants to boost the country’s timber manufacturing sector. Before the timber ban, harvesters needed a licence to cut trees, which specified the location, tree species and estimated fees to be paid to the authorities.
Between 250,000 and 300,000 hectares of forest are cut each year, according to Zambia’s Forestry Department. Between 2001 and 2014, Zambia lost more than one million hectares – an area roughly the size of Lebanon.
Eight per cent of Kenya’s land area is forested. .Forest cover has been increasing since 2000; at an annual rate of 1.9 per cent for the decade 2000 to 10, and 0.9 per cent for the following five years.
Illegal logging is widespread in the country, both for timber and fuelwood. In 2015, Kenya along with Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar made a joint declaration stating their commitment to increase co-operation in order to tackle the illegal timber trade in the region.