Southern African states work to save forests

11 August 2015

The first collaborative workshop on forest management and timber trade between Namibia, Angola and Zambia ended last week, on 7 August, with agreement reached on developing a time-bound action plan for collective forest management and timber trade.

Directors of forestry and support staff from the three countries met at the workshop, hosted by the Directorate of Forestry of Namibia and supported by Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), a Namibian NGO, and Traffic under a Sasscal timber project.

Timber is by some margin the most valuable wildlife commodity traded, according to Traffic. In the early 1990s, it estimated that the global timber trade was worth about $104-billion (R1.3-trillion today), approximately 65% of the total worldwide wildlife trade. By 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the US estimated the annual turnover at more than $200-billion.

Traffic senior programme officer Markus Burgener welcomed the development of the forestry action plan which would “address the growing concern that timber species found in Namibia, Angola and Zambia are subject to overharvesting and associated illegal and unregulated trade”.

High-value species including Pterocarpus angolensis (kiaat), Baikaiea plurijuga (Zambezi teak) and Guibourtia coleosperma (rosewood) are used domestically for construction but the majority of wood extracted is exported from the region as sawn timber to supply markets in Asia and South Africa. Given the cross-border nature of the trade, Traffic believes it is critical for the three countries to collaborate in addressing the related challenges to ensure that trade in the species is legal and sustainable.

Capacity and policy challenges

It said the meeting aimed to identify the key issues associated with forest management and the timber trade, and develop a collaborative action plan for addressing them. Through information sharing and open discussion, the main challenges identified included inadequate communication between the countries, lack of awareness of forestry regulations, limited information and data sharing, capacity resource shortfalls and legislation and policy gaps.

Having identified these issues, the three countries collectively developed a time- bound action plan which includes the development of a memorandum of understanding for collective forest management and timber trade. Other key areas targeted by the plan include harmonisation of documentation, greater sharing of information and data, and cross-border collaboration for increased compliance.

The plan also addresses the need, in all three countries, for capacity building to tackle the overharvesting and illegal trade of timber effectively.

Directors of the three nations asked for an annual workshop to be held to monitor the implementation of the action plan, with plans to encourage greater participation of the other Southern African Development Community countries.

Conservation of woodlands

The workshop resulted in the development of a clearly articulated set of actions and the strengthening of relationships between the three forestry directorates.

“These outcomes provide a strong platform for the conservation of woodlands in the region,” said Burgener.

Traffic is a non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. It is a strategic alliance between the World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Sasscal, the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management, is a joint initiative of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Germany, responding to the challenges of global change.

Traffic has a variety of projects investigating and monitoring the timber trade in Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe. In Africa, it supports the work of Comifac, the Central African forests commission. Traffic seeks to provide expertise in policy and legal reviews, monitoring of timber trade including illegal trade, bushmeat trade, capacity building and training, and assist in the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

In South Africa, it is helping the government to monitor the timber trade with neighbouring countries, including providing capacity building and training for species identification, enforcement assistance, and advice on how to enhance controls of the trade.

SAinfo reporter