31 January 2006

Kenya: Hear Out Genuine Loggers Too


Nairobi — Felling trees remains a thorny issue, largely because forests are being depleted faster than they are replanted. And the more the forests disappear, the harsher the climatic conditions become.

In turn, this means that both livestock and crops are adversely affected when the ecosystem is interfered with.

Although the Association of Timber Manufacturers has asked the Government to lift the ban on logging, the matter should be subjected to further debate and consultation between all the stakeholders.

This would ensure that all the parties involved, including timber traders, farmers, forestry officials and timber consumers, reach a decision beneficial to all.

The association says that unless mature pine trees are harvested at the right time, they go to waste, but if they are cut and sold, the Government stands to gain revenue.

Of course, consumers of timber products would also be happy. Increased supplies would push down the otherwise high prices and thus reduce the building costs.

But the need to harvest timber should be balanced with the more urgent one of replenishing our forests to ensure cleaner air, better weather, reduced human-wildlife conflict and greater preservation of the natural beauty that attracts tourists.

The Environment Ministry and the Forestry Department should listen to the grievances of saw-millers and timber traders because, in the last year, leading timber companies have been involved in tree planting initiatives.

The Government must not be seen to be punishing genuine traders for the sins of illegal loggers. Instead, it should crack down on those who destroy forests with wanton abandon.

We urge a utilitarian approach to ensure the greatest satisfaction for the legitimate loggers without jeopardising our natural heritage in any way.

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