Don’t kill our forests

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 July 2018:

Reports reaching the NGC indicate that President Maada Bio has ordered the temporary lifting of the ban imposed some weeks ago on the export of timber from our country.

When the President imposed the temporary ban, the NGC applauded his move because the Party believed that his move was an outward manifestation of the “New Direction’s” concern about the wanton destruction of our forests by foreign operators working in cahoots with unscrupulous citizens, and the urgent need to immediately intensify enforcement of existing forest conservation laws.

Our optimism and faith in the determination of President Bio’s Government to move quickly to arrest the unbridled destruction of our county’s ecosystem was justified.

The Speaker of Parliament confirmed our optimism a week ago, when he called on and encouraged Members of Parliament to view the film “Land That We Love” which chronicles the crisis of decades of deforestation in Sierra Leone.

Thus encouraged, as the Leader of the NGC Parliamentary Group, I decided to visit the old Hastings Airport on Sunday, 24 June 2018.

On the way, I discovered to my utter chagrin, several locations along the Wellington-Masiaka highway that serve as staging grounds for the illegal export of lumber from Sierra Leone. These are some of the many graveyards for our forests. I recorded the evidence here.

Credible research on deforestation in Sierra Leone estimates that during the past few years, our country exported 3000-4000 containers every six months. This is equivalent to thousands of acres of forest cover that is lost.

Given that each container sells for USD 4,000 in Freetown and bought for USD 15,000 overseas, 1000 containers will fetch $15 million whilst 4000 containers will generate $60 million of economic value that is lost.

Some of this wealth could have been captured if our country had a clearly defined policy and strategies for local value-addition by manufacturing furniture for export or domestic use. (Photo: NGC Leader – Dr, Kandeh Yumkella).

Moreover, the amount of lumber in this one location can feed a domestic furniture industry for years if sustainable forest protection and conservation measures are instituted to include replanting and seasonal harvesting.

This could establish a commercially viable furniture industry for wealth and job creation.

The NGC would like to believe that this negative mindset of “quick riches” at the expense of the environment will change, and that the New Direction Government is willing and ready to mitigate the current rate of deforestation.

The NGC therefore calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to introduce and enforce more stringent forest protection measures, accelerate the tree planting program, and teach our people to understand the nexus between sustainable forest management and the protection of ecosystems and water basins.

If these measures are not put in place, the current free-for-all and madness of lumber exports will lead to greater environmental calamity for the next generation.

The NGC estimates that the proposed temporary lifting of the ban to export 13,000 containers should yield about $195 million dollars.

We call on President Bio’s New Direction Government to ensure that a greater proportion of this amount accrues to government and the local communities concerned.

The NGC also calls on the Government to assure the country that there is a sunset clause for the lifting of the ban and to indicate exactly when the final ban will come into force again.

About the author

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is a Member of Parliament representing Constituency 062 – Samu Chiefdom, Kambia District in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella

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