15 May 2008

Sierra Leone: Ban On Logging Affects Employment

Kenema — Workers of the Gava Forest Industry Cooperation have expressed frustration about government ban on timber logging and exportation, stating that, the development has greatly hindered the scale of employment nationwide.

Mustapha Kallon, one of the sacked workers of the Cooperation Tuesday disclosed that the ban has brought the entire activities of the company to a standstill, indicating that more than hundred workers have been redundant.

He said, since the government cannot provide jobs for all its citizens, it was uneasy to have placed a ban especially on registered timber companies.

Jusu Swaray an angry worker said more than one hundred workers have been sacked.

"Few of us have also been asked to stop work and wait until the ban is lifted. When will this happen come to an end? We do not know. Life is getting very difficult for us with the high cost of living. How do we pay school fees for our children," he asked.

Musu Moinamah also said before the ban, she and her children used to fetch timber logs from the bush to get their daily bread but now life has become unbearable for them. She called on government to revoke the ban.

"In our villages, there are no jobs except farming.

The logging activity has helped us greatly. Each log we fetched from the bush cost Le1,000. Sometimes we fetched up to fifty logs, and we raised Le50,000," she explained.

Meanwhile, the angry workers have vowed to stage a strike action against Gava if their five months salaries are not paid.

In mid January 2008 the government re-imposed a timber export ban because of what it said was indiscriminate plundering of forests by Chinese and other foreign companies.

"They just invaded and started doing what they felt like doing," Forestry Minister Joseph Sam Sesay was quoted by the BBC. He said the ban would remain in effect until a policy was put in place to help local communities benefit from logging.

He added: "A lot of them are Chinese, Ivorians, Guineans - we do have a forestry law that outlines how to do business here... this law was not complied with by most of them." "Unfortunately even though the previous government did put a ban on the logging they were not effectively enforcing it and that's why we've put the ban." The reimposition of ban on timber logging came month after newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the Gola Forest a national park.

Forestry ministry official Hassan Mohammed had earlier told Reuters news agency that rapid deforestation in the north of the country had caused serious soil erosion, forcing local communities off the land.

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