THE Government is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the stakeholders in the local timber industry aimed at addressing issues affecting sustainable forest management.
Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister Wylbur Simuusa will sign on behalf of the Government and the timber stakeholder's representative for the timber producers.
According to the contents of the MoU, timber stakeholders have agreed that all players in the timber industry should ensure that value was added to the timber harvested based on international timber best practices.
The MoU was drafted following Government's suspension of all timber licences to protect the depleting forests around the country.
The MoU covers commercial saw millers, pit sawyers, local communities in concession areas, timber merchants and timber associations.
The MoU will address issues of illegal logging, false accounting of timber, and overcutting of timber, value addition to raw wood, poor timber harvesting methods and theft of timber.
On the other hand it will also try and address issues of unregulated fires, fraudulent use of timber licences, regeneration and planting of trees and coordination and consultation with all stakeholders.
During a nationwide consultative meeting held at Hotel Inter-Continental in Lusaka, the timber stakeholders argued that it was important for the Government to consider lifting the ban stating that the suspension of licences was done in a hurry.
They also urged the Government to clarify why they should make available 40 per cent of the honorary forest officers to control and protect the forest as outlined in the aims of the MoU because they were Government workers on a payroll.
In the MoU, it was proposed that all timber stakeholders in Zambia contribute 10 per cent of the monthly timber production fee to the forest regeneration fund.
On the other hand, Government agreed to appoint honorary forest officers in the short term to ensure control and protection of the forest as outlined in the aims of the MoU adding that in the long term operationalise the employment of forest guards as provided for in the Forest Act.
It was also pointed out that Government would set up a standing committee to review forest licences and fees of forest products.
The performance of the MoU would continuously be assessed and reviewed at the set consultative and technical meetings.
The meeting was attended by Mr Simuusa, the permanent secretary, the directors from the ministries and stakeholders from the timber industry from Western, Southern, Eastern and Lusaka provinces.