Verdade (Maputo)

Mozambique: The Depletion of Wood in Nampula

Nampula province continues to top the list of regions with the most furtive loggers in Mozambique, due to the recent large competition because of the province's substantial wood resources. Throughout the first quarter of 2014, the Provincial Services of Forests and Wildlife (SPFFB) seized at least eight trucks containing freshly cut logs, mostly belonging to Chinese citizens who used fraudulent schemes in obtaining the wood.

The depletion of various wood species in Nampula province is led mostly by Chinese citizens who often involve Mozambicans in illegal exploitation. Jornal @Verdade came across an individual of Chinese origin, whose name we were unable to determine, at the SPFFB office paying a fine of 1,500,000 meticais (approx. $49,000) because one of his vehicles was caught transporting wood illegally.

The vehicle was seized in one of the districts of Nampula province where wood exploitation is rife. Just last month (May), another individual of Chinese origin also paid a fine for violating the rules for use of various forest species. The individual paid 750,000 meticais (approx.$24,000). These are just a couple of the cases in an infinite universe of forest depletion. The unbridled wood exploitation, which is done with the complicity of some community members, is a very real reality in Mozambique.

The schemes used have, at times, cost some of the SPFFB inspectors who try to stop this practice their lives. Information obtained by @Verdade tells of an inspector, working in Memba district, who was premeditatedly hit and killed by a car when he tried to stop a vehicle carrying wood to the port city of Nacala. As a way to escape the inspectors, the pilferers use routes specially created for the purpose of removing wood from forests at night.

Data collected by SPFFB at the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture in Nampula show that some species of wood, such as ironwood and rosewood, are becoming scarce due to the deforesting registered in past years as a result of their commercial value in the international market.

Contrary to previous years when dozens of trees were felled and taken to other locations via the port of Nacala, the current scenario has changed. Now, the preferred market is Maputo province and shipyards belonging to Chinese citizens. It is common to see huge trucks loaded with various types of wood, freshly removed from the forest, moving through the streets of Nampula city en route to Maputo.

Also according to our sources, due to these factors, the extractors can only have access to a permit for the logging of 100 cubic meters of ironwood and rosewood. For other wood species, it is permitted to extract 500 cubic meters. The buffer zone of the Mecuburi reserve was invaded by loggers and, as a result, many species of wood are near extinction. These species near extinction are namely rosewood and ironwood, which are incidentally also the most popular. Besides Mecuburi, the districts of Murrupula, Muecate, Mogovolas, Malema, Ribáuè, Meconta, Eráti, Nacaroa, Memba, among others are additional regions with ample forest resources.

Government seeks ways to protect some wood species

To circumvent the extinction of some wood species, this year the Mozambican government has introduced some legal licensing tools for loggers. Those who are interested in exporting rosewood and ironwood are only granted a license to export 100 cubic meters. According to a SPFFB source, this new measure aims to protect these two forest species.

Additionally, data provided by SPFFB notes that there are 32 wood processing units currently operating, mostly in the provincial capital of Nampula, holding a workforce of more than 5,000 Mozambicans.

On the other hand, it should be noted that Chinese citizens own a large part of those establishments. Reactivation and opening of the wood processing units in Mozambique was due to the compliance with regulation that prohibits the export of some species of forest resources, such as rosewood and blackwood.

@Verdade was aware that up until May 19, the commencement date for allocation of forestry exploration licenses, the SPFFB in Nampula had processed 97 permits, mostly belonging to new operators. The largest single log of wood was registered in April 1999 weighing in at 658 kilograms. It was exported to China and, since then, a cut of this size has never been discovered again.

A partner at a Chinese company dedicated to the sale of furniture in Nampula, confirmed to @Verdade that the products manufactured from Mozambican wood often end up being sold in European and American markets due to their commercial value. This year an unspecified quantity of wood was exported to Asia.

Access roads in outright ruins

Access roads linking the areas of forest devastation to their point of departure from Mozambique are in a high State of degradation because of the type of trucks that circulate these routes. Operators are not involved in the rehabilitation of these roads and limit themselves to only repairing small patches of asphalt, especially when it hinders their transit.

*Community leaders with no ability to stop the stealthy*

The village of Tuphurutho, located within the administrative post of Namiréa, in Eráti district, Nampula province, is among one of several examples in the province where controlling of the unbridled exploration of forest resources by illegal loggers goes beyond the capacity of community leaders.

The village of Tuphurutho is approximately 120 kilometers from the main village of Namiréa. The area of wood extraction is 90 kilometers from Namiréa and access is only possible with four-wheel drive vehicles or a motorcycle. The cost of the trip varies between 700 and 1000 meticais (approx. $23 to $30). Arlindo Murule Malule, the Tuphurutho village chief, said that in his area of jurisdiction there are three areas which have abundant forest resources, but the loggers are the only ones who benefit from the wood, to the detriment of the population that only serve as manual laborers.

Still, the community suffers from a lack of stable employment options and is always searching for ways to support themselves and their families. According to the community leader, he is only summoned when someone needs a document citing that the community was consulted for the purposes of issuing licenses for the exploration of forest resources in the area. The chief of Tupurutho appears sad and discouraged with the rampant exploration of forest resources and said that often, when the furtive loggers are challenged, they mention the names of district and community leaders as being supporters of their damaging practice.

"As a rule, is not allowed to carry out wood cutting during January to May, but we have been experiencing cases related to the furtive loggers that pass by during the dead of night with trucks loaded with timber," the chief said. He added that "when they are stopped and questioned, they claim they are working at the behest of the personnel at the district headquarters, in particular the Director of District Services of Economic Activities, the Chief of the Administrative Post, among other individuals."

Due to the alleged protection of illegal loggers by the district authorities, the Tupurutho chief said that he is mobilizing the community in the hopes of enforcing the rules relating to the process of logging with the larger goal of combating the depletion of resources in his area. He announced that, in the next few days, local men, mostly young people mobilized to halt the depletion of wood, will place barricades on roads considered strategic to transporting timber in the dead of night in order to prevent the movement of logging trucks.

Our interviewee also said that, of the 15 percent profit value that is to be made available to the village as a result of the exploration of wood, just 24,000 meticais ($800) and 20 sheets of zinc has been given to the community, where around 10 million people live. He added that the figure was spread over three communities, Tupurutho, Namuatho and Murico. The amount was used to purchase classroom desks and to build teacher residences.

"These amounts do not reflect the amount of wood that is being extracted from our region, which is the reason why we call for the revision of these values. On the other hand, we ask the loggers to rehabilitate the access roads", stressed the chief.

That community leader said that starting this year, he will not permit exploration license applications without the operator's full compliance with all formalities imposed by the sector. This mainly includes a management plan, which consists of the presenting a plan for planting seeds to replace the resources lost, many of which are under threat of extinction. Three forestry operators were licensed in Tupurutho, one of the richest regions in wood resources in the country.

"It is necessary to replant the trees"

According to the National Directorate of Land and Forests, the forest degradation in Mozambique is taking place at a rapid and threatening rate. If trees are not replanted, the environmental damage will be devastating. Trees are a great protector of the environment and play an important part in the process of photosynthesis which produces the air we breathe.

Mozambique continues to face major challenges in the management, conservation and use of its forests, which are being sacrificed and doomed to extinction on a daily basis.

Mijuco: the wealth that generates poverty

Although a community with ample forestry resources could potentially benefit economically, Mijuco is unable to capitalize on their wood, wildlife and mineral resources. Allegedly, these resources are being robbed from the community by pilferers. Agriculture, which constitutes the main source of survival for more than 11,000 people, according to the Census of 2007, continues to be practiced rudimentarily, producing little income for most families. Constrained by this scenario, the population believes that the wealth of Mijuco only exacerbates the poverty indicators in the region.

Mijuco is a community within the town of Tupurutho. It lies about 100 kilometres from the district headquarters and little more than 350 kilometers from Nampula city. Due to its geographical location, Mijuco does not have fixed social and economic infrastructures. The areas of 25 de Junho, Namuatho, Murico and Navaia are dependent on external trade and regional Sunday bazaars.

Poor road network

The deplorable state of roads to and from one of the areas of Mijuco is evident and some roads are impassable. This situation greatly worries the community members who regularly must travel long distances using these roads, often even walking to purchase some necessary products in neighboring Namapa or Alua. Mototaxi operators, the only form of passenger transport, charge between 350 and 400 meticais ($10-$12) per person for a driving a stretch of just 45 kilometres.

Insufficient teachers

Only two teachers, one with a high school education and the other with only a primary school education, ensure that the 307 students enrolled in school in Tupurutho receive an education. According to Alfredo da Silva, an influential leader in the region, beyond the teacher shortage, insufficiently equipped classrooms is another concern. Our interlocutor said he had lodged his concern with to the students' guardians and the district government.

The 25 de Junho Primary School has seven classrooms, all built with precarious material and none have desks. In addition to the problems listed above, the issue of water is another headache in the region. Lack of access to clean water sources often forces women and children to travel long distances to find an alternative source of water. Many end up taking water from the lagoons, coming face to face with wild animals.

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