The national forest agencies of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique have joined forces to tackle the illegal timber trade in eastern and southern Africa.
The agencies have signed the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and Other Forest Products, at a side event in Durban, South Africa, at the XIV World Forestry Congress, one of the largest gatherings of world forestry leaders.
WWF said the declaration came at a crucial time.
“Illegal trade in timber is expanding at an alarming rate and this new commitment by governments will greatly amplify efforts to reduce such trade at the regional level,” said Geofrey Mwanjela, WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative head of terrestrial programme.
The NGO said there was a growing intra-regional and inter-regional illegal trade of timber and other forest products flowing across Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, as well as further towards the western and central Africa termed Africa’s ‘green heart'.
Mwanjela said current national and regional mechanisms to control illegality were hindered by inadequate collaboration among national forest agencies and customs agencies across the region.
“It is for this reason that WWF is providing support to forest agencies as they make this bold step towards significantly reducing illegal trade in timber and other forest products,” he said.
WWF’s Living Forests Report projects potential forest loss in the East Africa region of up to 12 million hectares between 2010 and 2030.