Friday June 27 2014

EAC countries to fight illegal timber trade

By Didas Kisembo & Eunice Kilonzo

Nairobi/kampala- Top government representatives from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have agreed to work together alongside Interpol and United Nation agencies to curb illegal timber trade that is stripping East Africa of one of its most valuable natural resources.

“Forests in Uganda are the drivers for our economy for transformation. Therefore, we have to stop illegal logging and illegal timber trade that has now risen to almost 80 per cent. We face deforestation if we do not act now,” Mr Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s Water and Environment minister, said yesterday at the first United Nations Environment Assemble in Nairobi.
An estimated $30-$100 billion (about Shs77 trillion- Shs257t) is lost to the global economy through illegal logging annually.
The representatives will meet under the East Africa Initiative on Illegal Timber Trade and REDD to address the illegal trade from source (illegal logging) to export.

Under this, they plan to increase accountability, transparency and develop technical capacity to deliver effective enforcement and verification.
“I am very enthusiastic to learn that there is great interest from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to tackle illegal logging and trade. We know that these illegal activities constitute an important driver of deforestation and forest degradation in the region,” Ms Tine Sundtoft, the Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway, said.

Ms Suntoft said countries are deprived of substantial revenues from the forest sector as a result, “income from the trade often ends up in illegal networks, fuelling crime as well as conflict”.