Illegal activities decimate Africa’s rainforests
Illegal logging, hunting, and farming in parts of West and Central Africa over the last 50 years have decimated indigenous rainforests, writes Leon Louw, owner and editor of WhyAfrica
The unintended consequences of harsh covid-19 lockdowns over the last two years have become a stark reality today. Red flags have been raised in the past about the rapid loss of biodiversity in parts of West and Central Africa. Nevertheless, this trend continues unabated, and in fact, accelerated in the wake of covid-19.
The indigenous rainforest of Central and West Africa is an enormous carbon sink and global natural asset that should be protected. Countries in the region could benefit from sustainable forestry, carbon credits, and eco-tourism. Mining companies, oil and gas ventures, agri-business and other extractive industries should consider investing in the protection of these large swaths of land to offset the negative environmental impacts of their operations.
Governments in West and Central Africa simply do not have the financial means, human resources, or the capacity to deal with illegal logging and hunting. Large chunks of these forests are cleared every day to make way for agricultural activities, without considering sustainable methods or protecting indigenous animal species.
Many of the foreign logging companies are operating illegally and exporting timber that should be protected. Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Nigeria have all seen an increase in illegal logging recently, despite governments in these countries trying to turn the tide.
According to the latest national forestry and wildlife inventory (IFFN) the forest cover in Côte d’Ivoire has fallen from 22 million hectares in 1960 to 2.97 million hectares in 2021. Over the past 60 years, 90% of the forest has disappeared, making Côte d’Ivoire one of the countries in Africa with the highest annual deforestation rate.
This trend continues, even in protected parts of the forest in the country, and even though logging is strictly prohibited in classified forest in Côte d’Ivoire. According to the Tropical Timber Market Report (ITTO) Decree No. 221-437 of 8 September 2021 signed by the Head of State, Alassane Ouattara, further strengthened this ban.
The country’s Minister of Water and Forests, Alain Richard Donwahi, last week pledged to halt illegal logging and has ordered the forest law enforcement units of his ministry to crackdown on operations in the country’s classified forests.
According to the ITTO three logging companies were found to be breaking the law in November 2021 after operations by the Directorate of Forestry and Water Police as well as the Special Brigade of Surveillance and Intervention.
The good news from Nigeria and Cameroon
There is good news though. Sharon Ikeazor, the Nigerian Minister of State for Environment, says the country will soon sign an agreement with Cameroon on ecosystem conservation and sustainable management of forestry and wildlife resources.
Ikeazor says this is to address biodiversity loss given the alarming rate of over-exploitation of natural resources. Many agencies have reported extensive illegal harvesting of rosewood in Cameroon and rampant smuggling into Nigeria from where the rose wood is exported.
As the global economy fires up after the slump during covid, illegal logging and unlawful activities will increase exponentially in part of West Africa. The question is how will West African governments deal with these challenges?
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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