Illegal Logging Strips Upper East Forests

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Rosewood is a hard dark reddish wood of a richly hued timber extracted from the rosewood tree. It has a strongly marked grain used in making valuable cabinet works for the elite class of society.

A rosewood tree takes over 30 years to grow. The tree is pruned when matured, else it would die after exhausting its maturity.

Research shows that China alone imports close to 96 percent of all rosewood lumber out of Ghana. A twenty foot container of rosewood on the international market ranges between US$ 20,000 to US$ 30,000 which is equivalent to GH¢84,250.00 and GH¢126,375 respectively.

A young rose wood
A young Rose wood

Districts such as Kassena-Nankana West, Kassena-Nankana Municipal, Builsa North, Builsa South, Bawku West, Talensi and Nabdam in the upper east region are blessed with this natural resource-Rosewood. However, the forests in these districts have been hit hard by illegal rosewood logging despite a ban on the trade.

A 20 footer container cited at the forest loading rosewoods

While there are laws governing concessions and logging,the operators clandestinely deplete the forests in harvest of rosewood. There is constant conflict with public authorities and surrounding communities over the persistent harvesting of Rosewood in the region.

Traditional Authorities, the Assemblies and the Forestry Commission are always at loggerheads over who granted permit to operators to cut and cart timber out of the forests. An example is Sekoti forest where the Paramount Chief of the area, Naba Sigri Bewong in an interview with a1radioonline.com admitted knowing the existence of the loggers, “they had an authorization note signed by the forestry so I had the impression it’s a continuous process. Personally I did not go to the Forestry Commission, but I had the impression Forestry Commission knew about them, because when they cut them, how do they convey them through all the borders and custom barriers to their destination?”

The Forestry Commission on the other hand denied “…it is not right, it’s illegal and they [loggers] are not doing it under anybody’s permission” James Wary, Upper East Regional Director of the Forestry Commission disproved.

The raiders in January 2017, intruded the Kayoro and Nakong forests in the Kassena-Nankana West district. This grew anger among residents who felt they have been cheated intellectually. The community members together with the Kassena-Nankana West Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA) and officials of the Wildlife Division thronged the forest this year to protect their forest. The exercise facilitated by Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS) a local NGO that is into forest conservation led to the arrest of five illegal loggers. The five operators were busily felling and trimming lumbers of timber for their paymasters around the Kukula forest reserve, the only forest now in the Upper East Region.

The angry community members discussion on how to throng the forest

The five were taken to the Navrongo Police Station and put behind bars pending investigation.

A consignment of processed timber was seized. Two motorbikes, gallons of fuel and chainsaw machines were confiscated by the angry community members.

Three of the five illegal loggers arrested

The community members alleged that the Chief of Kayoro, Pe Batabi Oscar was paid Gh¢ 3000.00 to pave way for the illegality. The community members also alleged that, wife of the Chief was paid Ghc500.00 weekly to offer catering services to the illegal loggers. However, the Chief refuted this allegation, saying he had been away from the community during the period the illegality was taking place. “I am informed that the one cooking for them is a small girl in the community, but not my wife.”

Kayoro Chief Pe Batabi Oscar

The District Chief Executive for Kassena Nankana West district then, George Noterah was said to have received these illegal lumbermen with open hands. But the DCE when contacted, got furious and asked the Journalists to get out of his office, saying, “you [coordinator of ORGIIS] came here with these people [media] and you expect me to speak, I will not. Please go away from here” he yelled at the media.

George-Nonterah-DCE-for-Kasena-Nankana-West

The Forestry Commission is accused of being responsible for the illegal logging because it has failed to play its role as regulator and controller of forest activities. According to sources, the Forestry Commission whose duty it is to protect the forest, is given freebies and deeply involved in this unlawful act.

But the Regional Manager of the Commission, James Wary refuted “we did not give permit to anybody to cut trees at the Kayoro area.”

“If our men are inside there, we will prosecute them,” he added.

But a truck driver by name Derry Lambert who has been carting these logs for close to a decade said his bosses who are Chinese nationals have all documents including a permit from the Forestry Commission granting him permission to load the lumbers out of the forest.

“When we are going to load, they [the bosses] come to give us documents from the forest people,Customs, the Police, VAT, TIDD (Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission) and everything before they allow us to go.”

Derry Lambert

The affected forests in the Kassena-Nankana West district, Kayoro and Nakong have been burnt while economic trees like the Shea, Dawadawa and Yellow berries cut down to give way for the activity of the illegal chain saw operators. Wild animals have all fled to neighboring forests in Burkina Faso for lack of water and grass to graze on and on their own lives.

ORGIIS Project Coordinator, Julius Awaregya expressed worry over the deforestation of the forest saying “it is the regional security that sat and took the decision to allow these rosewoods people to enter into the region and I am wondering what kind of regional security committee that will allow these people to enter into a region that has a fragile ecology system.”

Rural communities in the region are the hardest hit with this rosewood logging. Mr. Awaregya fumed saying “they [loggers] are taking it [rosewood] to China to make furniture and sell to our parliament and the parliamentarians will sit and be making yeah yeah.”

The illegal logging affects the region’s few water bodies meant for livelihood activities and farming purposes.The illegal rosewood harvesting in the upper east region and elsewhere in the country is not only affecting the economy but also represents a loss of genetic sustainability for the tree species and ecological imbalance.

The operations also expose the forest to uncontrolled exploitation, which degrades the local ecosystem.

By: Joshua Asaah|A1radioonline.com|


 

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