The crashing economies in Asia have been a blessing – if temporary – to the endangered forests of Sierra Leone – particularly the tall stands of redwood trees, prized for their beauty, their rich mahogany color and their high quality for furniture.
The illegal trade in the wood is one of the world’s most lucrative businesses, and affects much of Southeast Asia and parts of Africa and South America. When demand started to increase in West Africa around 2010, exports went from basically zero to hundreds of millions of dollars in just a few years.
Over the last decade, about US$9 billion in rosewood was imported into China, and this accounts only for wood officially listed as rosewood, which excludes many species sold as ‘rosewood’ but not recorded as such.
But now the contraction in the Chinese economy has paused the illegal logging in the Outamba-Kilimi national park – more than 1,100 square km of park protected by 27 unarmed rangers.
“No Chinese men are coming here anymore, and they’re the only people to come here and help us by buying what we cut,” said Ishmael Sessay, who has been harvesting timber from Sierra Leone’s oldest park since last year.
Logging for domestic use is allowed, but the government says logging in the park goes far beyond what is needed to satisfy home demand, and it does not have the resources to stop it.
“I feel pain in my heart when I see this forest cut,” said Musa Kamara, who worked as a ranger in the park from 1981 to 2018. “This sickness is the only thing keeping them away.”
In a related development, Nigeria is facing life without oil revenue as oil prices, now around $20 a barrel, have already skidded to the zero point.
”Global efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus have driven oil prices to low that they no longer cover the cost of pumping barrels… let alone providing the government with crucial cash,” wrote Bloomberg news wire.
Nigerian environmentalists should cheer this development. Their slogan has been “Keep the oil in the soil, keep the coal in the hole.”
SOURCE: Global Information Network