ILLEGAL loggers operating between the Tanzania and Mozambique border have been put on notice, following implementation of an agreement signed between the two governments to beef up measures against illegal cross-border timber trade.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between forest agencies of the two countries signed in April, 2012 outlines cooperative measures to help improve the management of critical natural resources, such as forests and wildlife, in the two countries and to increase the economic and livelihood benefits that such resources bring to the communities.
The memorandum is now in operation with specific measures being put in place for implementation over the next one year.
Speaking during a workshop held in Dar es Salaam recently to mark the start of implementing the MoU, Assistant Director of Policy and Planning in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mrs Bertha Nyange, noted that the MoU's operation was timely, considering that both countries continued to face challenges in finding appropriate ways to combat illegal activities in the forest sector.
"As we are all aware, the management of trans-boundary forest resources between two countries is facing a lot of challenges, such as illegal trafficking of forest products resulting in loss of revenue, flora and fauna, including biodiversity and ecosystem degradation," she said.
The MoU between the National Directorate of Land and Forests of Mozambique (DNTF) and the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) of Tanzania (now Tanzania Forest Service Agency) outlines cooperative measures to help improve the management of critical natural resources such as forests and wildlife in the two countries and to increase the economic and livelihood benefits that such resources bring to the communities.
Speaking at the same workshop, the Chief Executive of Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS), Mr Juma Mgoo, noted that implementation of the MOU would, over the next oneyear, focus on trans-boundary collaboration on law enforcement to reduce illegal trade in forest resources such as timber.
"We are focusing on ensuring that we carry out law enforcement jointly and exchange information on trade and harvesting operations between both countries.
The purpose of this is to ensure that there is compliance on both sides where traders in Tanzania and Mozambique comply with our laws and regulations regarding the management and utilisation of forest resources so that they are not depleted.
This is the beginning and we hope that in five years all the areas identified in the MoU will be fully implemented," said Mr Mgoo For his part, the National Director of Land and Forests (DNTF) of Mozambique, Mr. Simao Joaquim, noted that implementation of the MoU would help manage forest resources of both countries in a sustainable manner.
"This MoU is our part of effort to manage our forest resources in a more sustainable manner, together with our counterparts in Tanzania. We have together agreed to put in place joint operations in law enforcement and to exchange relevant information on the process of export and exploration in both countries over the next one year. We expect that local communities will continue to participate and commit themselves to our efforts of law enforcement.
Communities will report to us who are carrying out illegal activity in our forests and therefore participate in the process of implementing this MoU," said Mr. Joaquim.
The coordinated efforts between Mozambique and Tanzania are expected to bring about significant strides in the management of forests, thereby increasing benefits to the population of the two countries.
According to recent findings of a rapid assessment of illegal timber trade across the Ruvuma River on the Tanzania-Mozambique border by TRAFFIC and WWF, Tanzania alone is losing an estimated 6.8bn/- (US$ 4.2 million) every year from illegal practices in the forestry sector from just the three southern districts of Masasi, Tunduru and Nanyumbu.
The study further notes that businesspeople are using fraudulent documents, eg. registration, permits and licence documents at the border, to allow them to pass through official checkpoints and bring timber to the Tanzanian market.
The documents are written in Portuguese, which is not understood by most Tanzanian officials. Implementation of the MoU is expected to help stem illegal timber trade and protect forests in Tanzania and Mozambique from heavy biodiversity-related losses.
The Forest Programme Coordinator for WWF in Tanzania, Isaac Malugu, noted that implementation of the agreement couldn't have come at a better time, adding that it will help both governments recapture the benefits lost to illegal trade in forest products in Tanzania and Mozambique