Editor's Comment

Mukula suspension timely

Mukula logs.

THE indiscriminate exploitation of mukula tree for sale has over the years raised concerns about its future. Allegations against those suspected to be involved in the cutting of the tree have been made but nothing substantive has come out in terms of arrests. Therefore, we feel the suspension of the harvesting and exportation of mukula logs by Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Elijah Muchima provides an opportunity for a thorough probe into corrupt practices over the tree. Those still illegally exploiting the tree after the ban in 2017 should be investigated and brought to book. It is sad that the sale of the lucrative tree has benefitted only few privileged people while the poor hopelessly watch their environment being damaged.
Corruption in the harvesting and exportation of the mukula logs has given rise to deforestation in areas where the tree has mostly been exploited. While foreigners and a few advantaged locals exploit the tree to earn millions of dollars, poor villagers have been left to scrap on the opportunities of transporting the logs from the hinterland. Poor Zambians should not only be invited to fit in the programme of reforestation while foreigners are allowed to exploit natural resources like mukula tree.
The verification of documents of companies and organisations that were exempted by the previous government after the ban came into effect in 2017 must be followed to the latter. We cannot rule out illegal dealings among those exempted from the ban, which is why it is important for the ministry to undertake an audit. The ministry should not only end at suspending the harvesting and exportation of mukula logs but see to it that the practice does not frustrate the efforts being undertaken to fight climate change. Although there is rampant logging of other types of trees in the country, issues of regulation have been a matter of concern in the mukula trade. The high price attached to mukula tree, also known as rosewood, has placed it in the category of endangered species. Sanity is needed in the mukula trade so that money realised by those Government institutions authorised to harvest benefits Zambians and not only foreigners. We believe Government will not falter in its effort to break cartels in the sale of mukula logs, as these same cartels have been promoting indiscriminate cutting of the tree. Government should also extend such audits to other logging activities in the country which are negatively affecting the environment.
Charcoal trade is one activity which has led to massive deforestation in the country, which has been made worse by the scramble for mukula tree by foreign companies. As much as the country cannot avoid the use of timber for various purposes, this is the time to put in strict measures to protect our forests. There must be sensitisation among villagers who are being used by illegal dealers in the mukula trade about the dangers of illicit cutting of the tree. It is an open secret that much of Zambia’s populations rely on wood for energy especially in the rural areas, where issues of the ban on mukula may not be taken seriously. Lastly, we urge law enforcement agencies to back Government’s efforts to bring sanity in the harvesting and exportation of mukula logs.

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