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Published February 28, 2014 10:20 AM

Illegal logging threatens sustainability in Mozambique

Illegal logging has spiked over the past five years in Mozambique, finds a new report by researchers at the University of Eduardo Mondlane.  The report, published on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's web site, assesses timber production, consumption, and exports, finding that nearly two-thirds of logging is currently illegal. The report notes that harvesting is exceeding sustainable levels, threatening the long-term viability of the industry and putting local livelihoods at risk.

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Forestry expert Sam Lawson, who assisted with the study, estimates that $250 million of illegal timber is cut each year, depriving the country of important tax revenue that could go toward law enforcement and better forest management. 

Lawson adds that the report "is especially timely" because the official who has presided over the country's forests during the period — Minister of Agriculture Jose Pacheco — is on the shortlist of Presidential candidates who may stand in the election scheduled for later this year. An investigation last year linked Pacheco to a major timber smuggler, but the minister denied wrongdoing. 

The report was immediately welcomed by NGO's who went on to call for forestry reform in the country. 

"The Government can no longer deny or ignore the frightening extent of the problem. For years civil society has been asking for urgente action before Mozambique’s forests cease to exist," said Anabela Lemos of Justica Ambiental, a Mozambican NGO, in a press release. "Various studies were produced from national and international NGOS, and all of them reached the same conclusion. As such, we cannot understand the lack of action from our Government."

The report concludes with a call for a moratorium on new logging licenses; greater transparency from the government on forestry information; and the establishment of an independent forestry watchdog.

According to data published by researchers last year, Mozambique lost more than two million hectares of forest between 2000 and 2012.

Read more at ENN affiliate Mongabay.

Logging image via Shutterstock.

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